‘I’m sorry. I needed that’

MIAMI GARDENS — Tua Tagovailoa lowered his shoulders and his helmet and plowed into a human wall of Pittsburgh Steelers defenders.

Twice.

For most quarterbacks, that’s not recommended. But we move on, brush it off as a player just trying to pick up extra yardage for his team.

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For Tua, the most scrutinized player in the game when it comes to head trauma and the player who was solely responsible for the league tightening its concussion protocols, it first makes you cringe and then wonder why.

Here is the why:

“He immediately after the first time (said) ‘Coach, I’m sorry. I needed that,’ ” Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Sunday after the Dolphins’ 16-10 victory over the Steelers.

“I was like, ‘all right.’ “

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa runs off the field after defeating the Steelers Sunday night at Hard Rock Stadium.

But that doesn’t mean McDaniel did not wince, just a little, and pay close attention to his quarterback as he popped back onto his feet.

“He’s got that component to his game where he’s a competitor and he’s trying to get a first down for his team,” McDaniel said. “I’m never going to totally encourage that, at all. I’m probably going to advise him to slide every time.

“When push comes to shove, and the guy has the ball in his hands, it’s going to be tough to get him to completely turn it down, although I will try.”

Said Tua: “I wasn’t trying to be Superman or super hero. I was just looking at the situation … I can see the first down. To me they were close calls, ‘OK maybe if I do just put my shoulder down hopefully I can get forward progress with this.’ “

All is well again for the Dolphins. Miami snapped a three-game losing streak with the win and Tagovailoa started what he finished, which is not to be dismissed with this team.

Tagovailoa did something no Dolphins quarterback had done since the second week of the season: He played the entire game.

“He’s smiling,” safety Jevon Holland said. “He was awesome seeing him doing his thing.”

Tagovailoa had missed last two games because of concussion protocol

Tagovailoa returned after missing more than 2 1/2 games because of a concussion and a series against Buffalo after taking a hard hit late in the first half.

Considering time lost, throwing for 111 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter was impressive. What came after, not so much.

But first the good.

Tagovailoa got the Dolphins off to a hot start, scoring on their first three series to take a 13-0 lead.

“Not being able to play two games does have an affect on my performance in a way that I haven’t seen full speed reps in practice where guys are coming to hit me,” Tagovailoa said. “There are some things you have to just see when you play the game, get some of the looks at practice.”

That was not lost on McDaniel because it’s not just the in-game time missed since Tua was taken to the hospital after suffering a concussion during the first half of the loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 29. It’s the time missed between games.

Because the injury occurred in a Thursday night game and the team never really goes full speed during a short week, Tagovailoa’s last full speed practice before last week was Sept. 22. A full month.

“It’s to his credit,” McDaniel said. “If he wasn’t so prepared and hadn’t put himself in the position of playing quarterback when he was out, he wouldn’t have been able to have any sort of success like that.”

Steelers dropped four of Tua’s passes

But that success early was not sustained. You finished 21 of 35 for 261 yards. He did not throw an interception but that was only because the Steelers treated the ball as if it was dipped in suntan lotion.

Pittsburgh dropped four passes that could easily have been intercepted.

“Miscues with ball placement, communications,” Tua said. “Just miscommunications on our part with that. We just couldn’t find our rhythm.”

McDaniel thought Tagovailoa was getting frustrated. The Dolphins scored a touchdown and two field goals before the Steelers scored a first down. And that touchdown on the opening series was Miami’s last in the game. All it could manage the final three quarters was a third Jason Sanders field goal.

Fortunately for Miami, the Steelers’ seven second-half possessions ended with five punts and two interceptions.

“There was some stuff, particularly in the second half that was getting him frustrated to a degree,” McDaniel said. “But he did everything he took to win the game.

“And that’s all that matters.”

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t shy from contact, leads Dolphins over Steelers

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