The Pittsburgh Steelers dipped their toes into the free agent safety market this off-season, but they didn’t make the big splash with Tyrann Mathieu that a lot of fans had hoped for. Instead they opted to bring back Terrell Edmunds on a one-year contract after he tested free agency.
Heading into the NFL Draft two weeks ago, the belief was that the Steelers could target a safety as early as the second round. But some of the players they may have been interested in like, Jaquan Brisker, were selected before the Steelers were on the clock at pick 52. So as the draft wrapped up on Day 3 with the Steelers not selecting a safety, they quickly made the call to Damontae Kazee.
“It ended up being a quick offer and acceptance once I got it,” Kazee told Steelers Takeaways.
Kazee was drafted in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons and had a productive time with them. He left Atlanta for the Dallas Cowboys last season on a one-year contract. He started 15 games for the Cowboys but had pedestrian statistics overall. To his credit, he did force two fumbles, and had two interceptions. His best season came in Atlanta in 2018 when he recorded a career high 7 interceptions, 82 tackles, and 7 pass breakups. The Cowboys’ defense was middle of the road in terms of pass defense last year allowing the 13th most yards at 4,049, but finished 7th overall in total defense.
On Monday, Kazee spoke with Ron Lippock from Steelers Takeaways about joining his new team. A big topic among Steelers fans is whether or not Kazee is going to replace Edmunds in the starting lineup, or if Edmunds will retain his starting position.
“We didn’t talk about it really,” Kazee told Lippock. “I didn’t care who they thought would start right now – I just know that they’ll get the best out of me no matter where they put me. I’ll give it my all. After my lack of playing last year, I’m just ready to go out there and play again.”
“I know they have two great safeties there now in Edmunds and Minkah – I’m just going to go out there and compete and play and be aggressive. Whether they put me at nickel, corner, sub-anywhere – I don’t have a preference where they put me. I just want to go out there and make some plays.”
Kazee’s ability to play multiple positions across the secondary will surely be something that the Steelers take advantage of next season. Pittsburgh re-signed slot corner Arthur Maulet, but he didn’t exactly ease the pain of losing Mike Hilton. Maulet didn’t offer the explosive plays that Hilton used to provide, but he was solid in run support. Kazee could fit into the slot position on obvious passing downs, because of his ability to play the football.
Outside of Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Steelers secondary isn’t going to wow you. They have a lot of solid players, but Levi Wallace and Cam Sutton aren’t going to be confused with Rod Woodson. But the one thing they do have now that they didn’t have last season is a lot of versatility and depth. At the safety position, they now have Kazee, Edmunds, Fitzpatrick and second-year man, Tre Norwood. Norwood saw extensive playing time as a rookie seventh round draft pick last year. And at cornerback, Wallace joins Sutton, Maulet and Ahkello Witherspoon to round out the top four at the position.
Regardless, the battle between Edmunds and Kazee will surely be a much anticipated one as training camp rolls around.
Check out the full interview here.