The Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to draft a safety during the 2022 NFL draft. They were unable to do that with the way things fell. So they did the next best thing within hours of the draft being completed. They went out and signed a proven veteran safety with Damontae Kazee.
Kazee comes to the Steelers after a one year stint with the Dallas Cowboys last season. Before that he was a fifth round pick of the Atlanta Falcons starting 34 games over 4 seasons with Atlanta. He was highly productive in 2018 setting career highs in interceptions (7), tackles (82), and passes defended (10). Last season Kazee started 15 games for the Cowboys and had two interceptions.
But it wasn’t his play on the field that was big news for Kazee while he was in Big D, it was the news he made off the field. And Kazee believes that because of his off the field trouble teams were more reluctant to sign him this off-season. But after the Steelers asked the tough questions about what happened, they felt comfortable bringing the veteran to Pittsburgh.
On October 20th 2021 news broke that Kazee had been arrested the night prior on a DWI charge. The Cowboys were on their bye week when Kazee was arrested.
“It was kind of hard because of the situation I got into off the field last year,” Kazee told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “But I’m just blessed to be here now.”
Kazee said he told teams that he can’t change the past, but he just had to learn from it.
“I can’t change it, man. You just learn from it and move on. That’s the only thing I could do.”
Now Kazee enters a Pittsburgh secondary that was hit hard after the 2020 season. Veteran Mike Hilton left for Cincinnati via free agency, and Steven Nelson was granted his request to be released after the two sides couldn’t work out a contract extension during the off-season last year. That left some major voids that they weren’t able to immediately fill in 2021. The Steelers tried a variety of options to replace Hilton, but finally settled on free agent corner Arthur Maulet. Maulet was strong in run support but didn’t have the big play abilities that Hilton did.
According to Kazee he’s spending some time at the nickel corner spot, and safety and he could replace Maulet on obvious passing situations to help in coverage. Something that Maulet struggled with in 2021.
“I’m playing both roles, nickel and safety, right now. … Whenever I get in, I’m just going to bust my butt every play,” Kazee said. “I don’t care if I’m on special teams at the end of the day. I’m just going to bust my butt, so it doesn’t matter.”
Pittsburgh brought back safety Terrell Edmunds on a one-year contract to continue to play next to Minkah Fitzpatrick, but Kazee could ultimately end up beating Edmunds out for that position during training camp. Regardless of who wins the starting roles at nickel corner, or safety, Maulet, Edmunds, and Kazee should all still see the field plenty. For everything Edmunds lacks as a back end defender, he’s still a solid run supporter. The combination of all three might be exactly what the Steelers are looking for from their secondary.
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