The Pittsburgh Steelers are an organization that is regarded as one that takes character very seriously—indeed, they bill themselves in this way. Yet that doesn’t mean that they won’t ever be willing to work with individuals who might have a skeleton or two in their closet. Indeed, what it means is that they are willing to listen.
That is what they did with sixth-year safety Damontae Kazee, whom they signed to a one-year contract shortly after the 2022 NFL Draft concluded. Kazee, an unrestricted free agent, was arrested during the Dallas Cowboys’ bye week last year, cited for a DWI (driving while intoxicated).
According to Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he told reporters that, indeed, the Steelers were among the teams who inquired about his DWI incident as they pursued him in free agency. But he said that he feels “blessed” the team was willing to give him an opportunity—that they “took a chance on me”, in his words.
A fifth-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, Kazee has accumulated 12 interceptions over the course of his career, primarily playing free safety. He played all 17 games after signing with the Cowboys in free agency last season, having only played four due to injury the year before that.
Still, he believes it was his off-field incident that caused him to wait until after the draft to sign with anybody, and even then, to sign for the veteran-minimum salary. Kazee did play for the minimum last year, as well, but that was coming off of an injury-plagued season and in a depleted salary-cap market due to the ramifications of the pandemic, which saw many veteran players sign cheap one-year deals with the hopes of hitting free agency again in 2022.
Surely, Kazee would have been able to sign sooner, and for more, had he not had that unfortunate error of judgement, or so he believes. “It was kind of hard because of the situation I got into off the field last year”, he said of his free agency process. “But I’m just blessed to be here now”.
He expressed remorse over the incident, as one would hope and expect, saying that the situation is in the past and out of his control, but that he wishes that he could change it. “I can’t change it, man. You just learn from it and move on. That’s the only thing I could do”.
The Steelers are affording him the opportunity to do so, coming in to serve likely as a backup safety to Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, while having the ability to play in sub-packages because of his skillset allowing him to play in the slot, as well.
Indeed, he told reporters that he has already been practicing both at safety and in the nickel, with his only ambition being to “bust my butt” every snap he’s on the field, wherever that may be, doing whatever may be asked of him.