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Flip the Script: Steelers Defense Preps for Lefty Tua Tagovailoa



Steelers playoff Tua Tagovailoa

PITTSBURGH — At some point in Sunday night’s Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Miami Dolphins, a Steelers rusher is going to come around the left side of the offensive line ready to rush to the passer, only to have Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looking them straight in the face.

Tagovailoa is the only current left-handed NFL quarterback, and has been since he was drafted in 2020, and the first since Kellen Moore left in 2017. There have been plenty of solid quarterbacks that threw from the left side in NFL history, including Michael Vick, Mark Burnell, Steve Young, Boomer Esiason and Ken Stabler.

But for most of the Steelers defenders, Sunday night will be the first time facing a lefty passer. Does it make a difference? It depends on who you ask, but for some there are some differences. Those pass-rushers need to know where the ball is when they go for a strip sack.

“It’s a different dynamic, but rushing the quarterback is rushing the quarterback,” Steelers outside linebacker Malik Reed said.

For defensive linemen, those on the right side will have to be more aware of the quarterback attempting a quick pass to their strong side and getting their hands up.

“On the right side, we’re more in the eyes of the quarterback,” Cam Heyward said. “So we’ve got to get used to that. But we have to make sure more available, and then we have to strip the ball from the left side.

In the secondary, the same concept applies to the left cornerback versus the right cornerback, and quarterbacks’ tendencies to throw quickly to their strong side.

“I think what happens is the game goes from a left-corner game to a right-corner game a lot of times … they’re going to happen to the right corner this week,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “Just because that’s where he sees and kind of how it works, but I don’t think in terms of schematics or anything like that is going to change.”

The Steelers do not have a left-handed quarterback to simulate Tagovailoa on their practice squad, so all of the changes in preparation that the team will be doing in order to get ready for Sunday night will be mental, rather than physical.

RELATED: Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater Practice; Jaylen Waddle Limited

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