When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed veteran safety Damontae Kazee this offseason, they were bringing in a guy with a penchant for forcing turnovers, as evidenced by his 12 career interceptions, including a league-leading seven in 2018 as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. After Week 1, when the Steelers racked up five takeaways in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals, it didn’t seem as if Pittsburgh would miss that part of his game after he went down in the preseason finale with a fractured forearm. But the rest of the season has not been the same story, with the team totaling just 10 takeaways at this point in the year and a -4 turnover ratio. Kazee talked to the media today about how he can make an impact with the rest of the defensive back group when it comes to turnovers.
“Majority of the time it’s out on the field, so as a DB group we gotta get that ball, if it hit our hands we gotta make plays, you know that’s what they pay us to do. So at the end of the day, we just gotta make plays out there, get turnovers, give our offense another opportunity to go score some points,” Kazee said via Steelers Live on Twitter.
In Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers defense had four balls hit their hands and yet came away with nary a turnover. While the defense adjusted and generally played a good game against the Dolphins’ fearsome receiver duo of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, the lack of splash plays defensively was a killer as the offense struggled throughout the game in a 16-10 loss. If the defense was able to get a takeaway or two and gave the offense a short field, you could argue the Steelers would be sitting at 3-5 today.
I doubt Kazee is going to come in and immediately be another ball-hawking safety alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick, but he adds an intriguing element as the team’s third safety with Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. Couple Kazee’s return with the return of T.J. Watt, who has been out since tearing his pec at the end of Week 1, and the defense is going to be better in the second half of the season and surely will find a way to force a few more turnovers.
With Watt’s pass rush and ability to tip balls, the Pittsburgh defense is going to have to be opportunistic and take advantage of poorly thrown or tipped passes and actually convert on their turnover opportunities. The schedule gets easier in the second half of the season for Pittsburgh, but the offense isn’t showing any signs of improving. The defense is going to have to take it upon themselves to create chances for the offense and help this team find a way to put some points on the board. If they don’t, a top-five draft pick awaits.