The Steelers will have a new leading tackler for the first time since 2011 this season.
The Miami Dolphins assured that Friday by luring inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons away in free agency with a two-year, $12 million deal that includes $11 million in guaranteed money.
Timmons, who turns 31 in May, leaves the Steelers after 10 solid seasons in which he recorded 100 or more tackles six times. A former Pro Bowl player, Timmons had 114 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions in 2016, helping the Steelers reach the AFC Championship game.
One of Pittsburgh’s wins to reach the AFC Championship came against Miami in the first round in a game in which Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell set a team record with 167 yards rushing - a mark he broke the following week at Kansas City.
Miami running back Jay Ajayi was limited to 33 yards on 16 carries in that game with Timmons playing a big part, leading the Steelers with 14 tackles while also recording two sacks.
The first first-round draft pick of head coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure in 2007, Timmons became an integral part of the team’s defense by 2008, helping the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory.
He also was remarkably durable. Timmons has started all 16 games in six consecutive seasons and has not missed a game since 2009.
The Steelers wanted to bring Timmons back but were scared off by the guaranteed money Miami was offering for an aging linebacker. Pittsburgh also signed backup Vince Williams to a three-year extension prior to the start of the 2016 season.
He’ll be counted on to play next to emerging star Ryan Shazier in 2017.
Timmons is the second free agent the Steelers have lost since the signing period began Thursday. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton signed with Chicago Thursday.