Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: S Damontae Kazee
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: While it doesn’t appear that he is or has ever been in contention to take a starting job away from Terrell Edmunds, veteran safety Damontae Kazee does look like he is going to be a defensive contributor this season. He has been a consistently positive performer throughout the offseason, and the Steelers showed a three-safety look with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, and Kazee all on the field in the second preseason game.
Even more so in hindsight, it is still somewhat hard to believe that the Steelers were able to secure a backup, sub-package contributor of the talent of Damontae Kazee for a veteran-minimum contract. Granted, his value was weighed down in the market this season following his DWI arrest last season with the Dallas Cowboys, and that certainly should not be made light of. He obviously made a very serious mistake that could have had much greater consequences.
But our concern is about football for the moment and not moralizing. That’s merely to explain why a player of his talent was available for the price the Steelers got him for, and after the draft, no less, without serious competition for a starting role.
Even though he won’t be starting next to Minkah Fitzpatrick, however, he will be playing. The Steelers showed in the last preseason game that they are working on a three-safety ‘big nickel’ defense featuring Kazee as a third safety, and fifth defensive back, rather than Levi Wallace as a third cornerback.
It can also be noted that Tre Norwood saw a few snaps with the first-team defense as a dime defender, all three times with the top three cornerbacks also on the field. Clearly, the Steelers are preparing themselves to field an assortment of sub-packages.
But Kazee is going to be a part of one. I don’t know particularly in what context they will use it, but they clearly value his well-rounded game, and his hitting ability has been impressive. You can make your own determination for how ‘hard’ of a hitter he is, but when I see him hit somebody, the guy typically goes down and doesn’t pick up extra yardage. That’s the part I care about.