After failing to address the secondary during the 2022 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers quickly turned around and signed veteran defensive back Damontae Kazee to a one-year contract. A player that they had already expressed prior interest in, it is entirely possible that knowing his availability influenced the course of their draft taking a path that ended up with no new additions to the secondary.
Kazee figures to come in and serve as the number three safety behind starters Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, but he is also capable of playing in sub-packages, including as a slot defender, something that he has done in the past. For the moment, he’s not particularly concerned about when or where he plays, but putting the work in.
“This is my year six, so I have learned how to do things”, he told reporters last week, as Teresa Varley wrote for the team’s website recently. “I have played for two different teams, so I have learned how to come in and put my head down, go to work and do what I have to do”.
Originally a late-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons, Kazee signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys last year. A DWI incident, he believes, significantly impacted his market this year, and he considered himself blessed that the Steelers offered him this opportunity. Indeed, he feels the whole team has embraced him.
“It’s been going good”, he said of his first few weeks inside the building, and the locker room. “It’s like a brotherhood here. Everyone communicates with everybody. They bring you in with warm arms. Everyone is going to do what they need to do and get the job done”.
It remains to be seen exactly when and where Kazee fits in, but the Steelers do have some options this year. Their top three cornerbacks are Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Levi Wallace, and when all three are on the field, Sutton would be in the slot.
They also have second-year Tre Norwood as a sub-package option, who played nearly 400 snaps as a rookie, both at safety and in the slot. And there is James Pierre, who started four games as an outside cornerback, though he was ultimately benched after struggling. He is another option as an outside cornerback for sub-package play.
Add Kazee to that mix, an experienced player with a lot of starts logged, and you have a secondary that has what I might argue depth that is underrated. Now, Fitzpatrick is the only blue-chip player in that group, mind you, but if they can all work from the same script as a unit, I think they have enough talent—and, again, depth—to perform at a high level this season, paired with a potentially elite pass rush.