The Steelers piled up seven sacks in the 38-10 win yesterday, and all of them came from their linebackers. "James Harrison is the bus driver," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "And if he gets a play off, he's going to let 56 (LaMarr Woodley) hear about it, or 94 (Lawrence Timmons) hear about it, or 51 (James Farrior). The biggest competition is in your backyard, and that's how they approach it. They're not a selfish group. They work, but they drive each other, and that's awesome."
Harrison and Woodley each had two sacks to extend their team (and possibly league) leading totals to 8.5 and 7.5, respectively. But a new contender emerged yesterday. Timmons also had two sacks, and he could've had three.
"I stole one from Timmons," said Farrior with a paternalistic chuckle. "We love the competition that's between us linebackers. We try to thrive off each other, support each other, and when we have good days like this we're really proud of each other."
The outside linebackers say teams must "pick your poison" in deciding which rusher to focus on. But the emergence of Timmons, who played inside, outside and even lined up over wide receiver Chad Johnson at times, throws another explosive blitzer into the mix.
Timmons first came clean on a third-and-8 play early in the second quarter. Like a lightning bolt, he swooped off the edge, but Farrior "stole" the sack to force a Bengals punt.
Timmons' first true sack, and second of the season, occurred early in the fourth quarter. With the Steelers leading by only seven, Timmons sacked Ryan Fitpatrick on third-and-10 to force a punt. The Steelers scored the game-clinching touchdown six plays later.
Timmons came up big on the Bengals' next third down as well. His sack on third-and-12 sent Bengals fans to the parking lot. After the game, Timmons was his typically humble self.
"I had an all right game," he said. "I think I did well."
Timmons was anything but productive last season, when some fans and media wondered whether he was a first-round bust. But his teammates never thought that way.
"I kept telling people that he's fast and he's good," said Woodley. "If you watched him practice, you saw that every day. He really practices hard. The only question was whether he'd transfer it to the field, and now that he has that understanding of the game he's even faster."
Timmons remains a backup to Larry Foote, but the Bengals used their 3-receiver sets so often the Steelers used plenty of nickel defense. It gave them three explosive pass-rushers to go along with Farrior, the captain inside.
"I don't know if we really blitzed any more than we usually do," Farrior said. "Guys were just getting home more often."
Of course, the defensive line made it all happen by stuffing the run and not allowing Fitzpatrick to scramble up the middle. But Aaron Smith gave the verbal game ball to the linebackers.
"I think we've had more talented linebackers before," Smith said. "But collectively, this group by far is overall the best I've played with. Play in and play out, there's never a drop off. Teams have to pick their poison."