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Miami Dolphins vs Pittsburgh Steelers Film Review: Tua Tagovailoa Has an Up and Down Performance

Tua brought energy to the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday evening, but also had to knock off some rust.


The energy around the Miami Dolphins and the NFL was palpable as Tua Tagovailoa made his return against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the first drive, it felt like this would be the kind of story book return fans had hoped for. In reality we saw a very up and down performance against the Steelers. Tua did a lot of great things, so lets start with those.

Tua Showed why he’s so important to this offense

I’ll be honest, I’ve always been a Tua guy. I wont say I’m a part of “Tuanon,” but I have always believed in his skill set. It never made sense to me when people would ask questions like “what is his super power!?” Are we watching the same guy play quarterback? Look at how quickly and accurately he gets some of these balls out. People loved to talk about his inability to throw “off-platform” but for so many of these throws he isn’t able to set his feet properly, yet delivers a perfect ball with good velocity.

It’s true that he doesn’t have the other-worldly arm strength of someone like Josh Allen or the athleticism of a Kyler Murray, but he doesn’t need that. His strengths are his quick release, accuracy, ability to manipulate defenders, and the ice water that runs through his veins in the most clutch situations. He’s always had those traits and they were on full display against the Steelers.

But it wasn’t all good....

While we saw the good against the Steelers, we also saw him struggle at times in this game. With Tua missing the last last two-and-a-half games, it really felt like he was out of rhythm on a good chunk of these plays. Missing out on valuable practice time is going to have this consequence, especially when the quarterback and entire offense rely so heavily of timing.

This was the first sign that not everything was going to be perfect against the Steelers. This looks like a bang-8 or “skinny-post,” but Tyreek seems to come out of his break on this route a little slow-like he’s expecting the ball right as he turns in. Tua leads him a little further in, the ball get’s tipped and almost caught by the defense. Timing seems to be the culprit here.

Again, this really feels like a timing issue. The play before this, Tua hits Tyreek on a very similar outside release/wheel route and they are able to complete the pass and convert a third down. They go back to this, but this time it feels like Tua is just a split second late releasing this ball. Tyreek seems to be expecting it earlier and turns to make a play on the ball. This gives the defender enough time to turn around and almost bring down the interception.

A lot of fans have criticized him for even attempting to squeeze this between the trailing linebacker and safety, but I’ll never knock him for being aggressive. I understand that sometimes that wont work in your favor but I think it’s important to take your shots. On this specific play, it looks like Gesicki is contacted way down the field both before the ball comes out and after. Either way, he isn’t able to get to this spot in front of the safety and the ball is almost picked off.

This was the one decision and throw that I wasn’t happy with-and I’m sure he feels similarly. Not being privy to the specific play details, I can’t say for sure what went wrong. Maybe Tyreek was meant to flatten this route out more and this is why the ball is so short, or maybe he just underthrows it. He’s pressured as soon as he boots out and lets this thing go in a dangerous spot.

Moving on to Detroit

It wasn’t a perfect performance for Tagovailoa, but it wasn’t a disaster either. This game reminded me a lot of the season opener against New England. Earlier this season he followed that up with back to back stellar performances against Baltimore and Buffalo. I expect him to have a similar bounce back this week against the Detroit Lions.

He’ll face a Detroit defense that’s allowing the second most yards per attempt on passing plays in the NFL this Sunday at 1:00pm est. Look for Tagovailoa and McDaniel to continue being aggressive and for Tua to minimize the timing and mental errors that spoiled a strong performance against the Steelers.