As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Miami Dolphins, a lot is on the line. A tough matchup on paper, the Dolphins are getting their quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who started the season red hot at 3-0 before getting injured. Tagovailoa is a unique quarterback in many ways, one of them being that he is left-handed. Steelers’ star defensive tackle Cameron Heyward commented on the challenges that come with facing a left-handed quarterback, offering insight into his perspective as a defensive lineman on the right side.
“On the right side we’re more in the eyes of the quarterback,” Heyward said in a Wednesday press conference on Steelers.com when asked about facing a left-handed quarterback. “So we gotta get used to that. We have to make sure we’re more [aware]. We have to strip the ball from the left side. That’s how it really applies, I don’t really know on the back end how it’s looked but up front that’s how we’re taking it.”
The Steelers will face Tagovailoa for the first time since he was drafted to the Dolphins in 2020. The third-year quarterback was arguably having his best season to date prior to injury, and the Steelers will be the first to find out whether he can keep up the pace of his red-hot start. With an offense that features some of the fastest receivers in football in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, the Steelers will have a lot on their plate.
Left-handed quarterbacks have an interesting history in the NFL, and more than their fair share of success stories. Two names that come to mind are Steve Young and Mike Vick, the former winning a Super Bowl and the latter being an All-Pro who once played in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have a losing record of 40-45-1 all-time against left-handed quarterbacks in the regular season and playoffs. The most recent time the team faced one was back in 2014 — a 20-13 loss to the aforementioned Vick and the New York Jets. Interestingly, Tagovailoa is naturally right-handed, and his many reps throwing it left-handed wound up sticking to become his permanent throwing style.
Playing against left-handed quarterbacks is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is unorthodox, and often unsuccessful. On the other, for right-side defensive lineman such as Heyward, playing on the quarterback’s blind-side is indeed a difficult adjustment to prepare for.
The Steelers’ preparation to playing Tagovailoa may very well decide the game on Sunday. Having recently hired Head Coach Mike McDaniel, an offensive mind from 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s tree, the Dolphins are undoubtedly an offensive juggernaut. Though the team has struggled with their pass rush since the injury to linebacker T.J. Watt, they must generate it consistently to slow down the Dolphins’ offense and keep the game low-scoring.
The left side of the Steelers’ line features defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk, outside linebacker Malik Reed, and defensive end Chris Wormley. Given the limited sample size of this Steelers roster playing left-handed quarterbacks, it’s hard to tell how they will respond. The last time they did in 2014 was long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s last season with the team, for perspective. After all, having Heyward play on the quarterback’s blind side may work out, but it’s hard to tell.