Bringing you guys a film room today. Tons of Pittsburgh Steelers’ players made their debut in Saturday’s preseason opener. Veteran DB Damontae Kazee was part of that group and he flashed, finishing the game with four tackles. Today, we’ll break down those four tackles and sum up Kazee’s value and potential role this season.
First example comes late in the first quarter. Defense loses the running back in the flat off playaction and Travis Homer has daylight down the left sideline. Robert Spillane lacks the foot speed to track him and Kazee has to finish things off. Homer is squeezed by the sideline, but watch Kazee cut the back down with a forceful tackle where some defenders would rather push the back out of bounds. A strong, low tackle to upend Homer and stop the bleeding.
Here’s Kazee filling the alley on a good run by Homer early in the second quarter. Good close and finish with a wrap-up tackle around Homer’s ankles to take him down and limits YAC. Kazee loses his helmet at the end of the run. Nice run fill here to clean up the front seven’s mess, similar to what Minkah Fitzpatrick was tasked to do last year.
Third down checkdown to the tight end. Kazee comes from his zone drop and closes quickly before the tight end can get upfield. Despite Kazee being half the tight end’s size, Kazee immediately drops him with a sound wrap-up tackle. Pittsburgh’s defense gets off the field.
Last example late in the first half. Cover 2 with Geno Smith firing down the middle of the field complete. Kazee is able to prevent additional YAC with a strong open field tackle that quickly drops the receiver and gives the defense blades of grass to defend. The only downside with Kazee is that he was shaken up on the play and came out of the game.
Generally speaking, these aren’t good plays for the Steelers’ defense, and that thought isn’t lost on me. I’d much rather Kazee make zero tackles instead of cleaning up good runs and downfield passes. But putting that aside for a moment, it’s preseason anyway, as he was billed coming out of San Diego State and throughout his NFL career, Kazee may be small but he plays big. He’s an impactful hitter and when he makes contact, you go down. No one’s falling forward, guys aren’t dragging him along. They drop like a bag of rocks. It makes Kazee an effective open field tackler, though he does tend to aim and shoot low, while making him a versatile option in the slot or at safety.
According to our charting, we have Kazee down for 24 snaps in the preseason opener. He started at FS opposite Terrell Edmunds and then paired with Tre Norwood to end the half. We have him charted for 12 snaps at FS and 12 at SS, with four of the latter in the box. He’s versatile and capable of playing all those spots, making him a valuable backup. Despite a torn Achilles two years ago and the Cowboys and DC Dan Quinn not wanting him back, Kazee still looks like he has something left in the tank. Currently, his role is hard to define, but he’ll be great depth when injuries strike, and the team may try to find ways to get him on the field in “big” three-safety packages against 1 WR sets, i.e. 22 and 13 personnel.