Young LBers Growing Up, Blowing Up

You know about the Steelers' starting linebackers. But the young pups are showing enough potential to make the entire group something special.

LATROBE – NFL officials were on campus Friday for their annual talk about changes in the rules. But they missed the one about flying dropkicks.

That's the only description for what Lawrence Timmons did to tight end David Johnson Friday night at Latrobe Stadium.

"Off the top rope!" one pro wrestling aficionado exclaimed from the sideline after the tackle.

Was "The Law Dog," Timmons, trying to kill Johnson?

"No, he was trying to avoid him, jump around him," said Larry Foote. "But the tight end was trying to avoid him. That could've been ugly."

That could've been a $100,000 fine on game day, right?

Foote just laughed.

"Last night, to the referee, we said, ‘That video didn't say nothing about a knee to the head. You said forearms and helmets to the head. What about the knee?'"

Timmons has obviously taken the term "flying around the field" to a new level. And he looked particularly explosive in the backs-on-backers drill.

For that matter, so too did the rest of the Steelers' young linebacking crew as they were exhorted by the veterans who enjoyed the show.

It was payback from a week ago when young running backs such as Baron Batch and Jamie McCoy made names for themselves by blocking the vaunted Steelers linebackers.

"(Coach Mike) Tomlin definitely put it up on the board and we got a little heckling from the guys all week, but they turned it around last night," Foote said Saturday afternoon.

Up on the board?

"Yeah," Foote said. "He showed some images of it, some video clips of them blocking us. In that drill we're supposed to dominate and we rebounded last night."

It was clear that Batch, the seventh-round pick out of Texas Tech, and McCoy, the squatty H-back/fullback who'd spent some time on the St. Louis Rams' practice squad last year, had the full attention of the linebacking crew Friday night.

Still, those two backs had the best of it as Timmons, Sylvester, Jason Worilds, and even Mortty Ivy, Chris Ellis, Chris Carter, and Baraka Atkins, took turns sprinting seven yards and hammering the entire Steelers' backfield with enough force to draw all eyes into the corner of the Latrobe Stadium end zone.

"The drills are kind of lopsided," explained Sylvester. "In that situation, I feel the backers have the advantage. When we go one-on-ones, all of that open field, the offense has the advantage."

Sylvester praised the work of Batch and McCoy for "giving us a great look and challenging us to be better," but Sylvester was impressive in all of his reps. The second-year inside backer from Utah has put on 10 pounds (250), which he hopes to whittle to 243-244 for the season, or 10 pounds more than his in-season playing weight as a rookie.

"I took a lot of reps yesterday. I had to show that I was in shape," he said. "Mike T(omlin) wants to see how well I'm using and running with this weight. I put in a lot of work in the offseason with my trainer. I'm ready to go."

By all accounts, Sylvester passed the mobility test. So did Worilds, who's similarly "rocked up" after an intense offseason of training.

They're two of the five rostered linebackers Tomlin has drafted since taking the job in 2007. Sylvester, Worilds and rookie Chris Carter appear to be percolating nicely behind starters James Harrison, Timmons, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley.

"I like the whole, the aura, of this team," Sylvester said. "Me and L.T. are really cool, you know, talking all the time about what things help us the most. Larry Foote and James Farrior, those are guys that help you with technique and what you should've done better, and what you could've done better, or what you did good and what you should stick to. That's what I love about this team and I feel like that's why we're really successful. Everybody's willing to chip in and help out."

"We're talented," said Foote. "We haven't had preseason games yet, so it's kind of hard to see, but from top to bottom, like for the whole group in camp, this might be one of the talented ones since I've been here.

"Saying that, we judge them when they're underneath the lights. So far it looks like we've got talented players. I like the one young kid, 54 (Carter). He looks explosive off the edge. The Steelers do a great job, especially with the outside linebackers. They've got the eye for them."

Just keep an eye on them. They're flying out of the sky these days.

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