Mike, can you compare Lawrence Timmons to anyone you have worked with? Tomlin hemmed and hawed, gathered his thoughts, appeared set not to overstate the case, but he did it anyway.
"He has some Derrick Brooks qualities," Tomlin said of his first draft pick as coach of the Steelers.
"You don't necessarily want to put that on anyone because Brooks is a legendary player," Tomlin said, "but he runs around and strikes people. He is relentless and he loves the game."
Tomlin will probably regret putting that kind of tag on Timmons. Brooks is a 10-time Pro Bowl player. He was the catalyst of Tampa Bay's championship run in 2002. He is the player most often identified with the "Tampa Two" defense that Tomlin would someday like to run in Pittsburgh. He is, as Tomlin said, a legendary player.
He also went to Florida State, and so the onus is on Timmons: When will you be Derrick Brooks?
"Brooks is one of the best linebackers to ever come from FSU," Timmons said. "It feels good to have a comparison like that."
Timmons is a surprise pick in that the Steelers needed a 3-4 outside linebacker and the 6-0 7/8, 234-pound Timmons is a 4-3 outside backer in the mold of Brooks. That may work down the road, but can a 234-pounder fit the position? After all, Joey Porter was a 250-pounder. Jason Gildon was, too. But there have been exceptions.
"His measurables are almost identical to Greg Lloyd's," Kevin Colbert said of the former 6-foot-2, 228-pound superstar. "You can say that Greg was a sixth round pick, but should he have been a sixth round pick for as good as he was? There are some guys that can play without the great measurables and we have seen him do these things against offensive tackles."
That is the plan for Timmons. He played outside in Florida State's 4-3 but the Steelers plan to play him … where coach?
"We're a 3-4 team. He's a right outside linebacker," Tomlin said with a glare.
Yes, his glow had turned into a glare as reporters scrutinized a player with only one year of starting experience. Tomlin is adamant that Timmons was not drafted as a future piece in his 4-3 Tampa Two defense. Tomlin swears that Timmons will help the Steelers this year.
"He's a right outside linebacker," Tomlin reiterated. "He has mack (inside linebacker) capabilities and we like what he has from the versatility standpoint. But, initially, he will start out at the right outside linebacker."
Timmons is a young junior. He'll turn 21 next month. Colbert described his personality as such:
"This kid is very quiet, very soft-spoken, really a quiet kid. That's the one thing – as a junior, so many times when you talk to them you think you are talking to your kids, teenagers. But this kid is very serious and very, very quiet. I think that's how you'll find this kid to be."
On the phone, Timmons lived up to the hype.
Reporter: Pretty exciting day, huh?
LT: Oh, yeah.
LT: I got drafted.
And on it went.
Timmons was born in Florence, South Carolina, the home of Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson. He was a first-team All-State linebacker/tight end at Wilson High School and selected Florida State over Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina and Georgia.
At Florida State, Timmons played behind Ernie Sims for two years before breaking into the starting lineup last season. He followed the tradition set forth by Sims, Marvin Jones and Brooks as a starting strong-side backer at FSU and compiled five sacks and 79 tackles. He also scored three touchdowns on turnovers and a scooped blocked kick.
At the combine, Timmons ran a 4.66 40 and at his pro day ran 4.63 and 4.66. If it seems rather slow for the 15th pick of the draft, consider that the 28th pick of the 1995 draft, Derrick Brooks, ran a 4.65. And he's done pretty well for himself. Not that Mike Tomlin noticed … much.