With Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missing last Sunday’s 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints due to an appendectomy the day before, safety Damontae Kazee stepped up to replace him as the starter in what was Kazee’s first appearance of the season after suffering a broken forearm in the preseason. Kazee had a key fourth-quarter interception that sparked a scoring drive to put the Steelers ahead by two scores, and Fitzpatrick talked to the media today about his fellow safety.
“Kazee’s a great player,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m excited to see what it looks like with both of us, all three of us out there making plays. He plays the game like he’s never had a bad day. He’s full of energy, full of excitement, brings passion to the game,” Fitzpatrick said via a video posted to Steelers.com.
Kazee’s role was supposed to be the third safety in a big nickel package for the Steelers alongside Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, but his preseason injury wiped him out for the first eight games of the season. If Fitzpatrick is able to play this weekend, and he logged a full practice today which is a good sign for his status, we could see the three-safety grouping for the first time in the regular season.
During his Tuesday press conference last week, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked about the benefits of the three-safety package, and while the Steelers only used it seven times during the preseason, it’s possible they’ll use it more during the regular season with Kazee, Edmunds and Fitzpatrick all playing regular snaps over the course of a full game. Kazee showed on Sunday that he’s deserving of snaps, but Edmunds and Fitzpatrick aren’t at any risk of getting their jobs taken away. Thus, Kazee will either be used in the big nickel or as a one-play replacement for either Fitzpatrick or Edmunds.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Steelers deploy Kazee when Fitzpatrick is back to full strength, but it’s clear his infectious personality and attitude on and off the field is a positive for the Steelers. Edmunds praised it the other day, and even if he isn’t always contributing on the field, you love to have a guy with that sort of attitude around the team. For that reason alone, Kazee seems to have been a good signing in Pittsburgh, and if he can keep making plays on the field, it’ll look even better.