Steelers News

Damontae Kazee’s Presence With Fitzpatrick Down ‘Was Very Huge’ For Defense, Heyward Says

The Pittsburgh Steelers got two key defenders back on the field yesterday, yet were also without two others. While outside linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Damontae Kazee both returned from the Reserve/Injured List, linebacker Myles Jack was held out of play due to a knee injury, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick just had a surprise appendectomy over the weekend.

It was fortuitous timing for Kazee to come back now. Though he had just been activated to the 53-man roster after suffering a broken forearm in the preseason, he was ready to step into a starting role right away. He didn’t play the whole way—Tre Norwood and others had a role, as head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed—Cameron Heyward stressed how big of a deal it was to have his presence both on and off the field.

“It does wonders. He’s a veteran guy, plays with a chip on his shoulder”, he said of the opportunity to get him back, and at this time, via the team’s website. “If you’ve been in our locker room, Kazee’s been one of the louder guys this week. I think him and Myles were about to fight every day—in a playful way. Kazee, he’s small in stature, but big with his voice, and he plays big as well. So being able to put out a guy like that out there when a guy like Mink’s down was very huge”.

A sixth-year veteran with ample starting experience, Kazee signed with the Steelers this season after the draft for the veteran minimum, his value likely tanked because of a DWI arrest last year while he was with the Dallas Cowboys.

He registered four tackles in his debut, including an early run stop, and he also had a key late interception off of an Andy Dalton pass intended for wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Cornerback Levi Wallace was in coverage on the play and the safety was able to clean it up.

The offense responded with a close-out drive, marching down the field in nine plays to score a touchdown and go up 10, a two-possession lead that would hold for just their third win of the season. Kazee also drew an unnecessary roughness penalty when trying to break up a pass at the sideline.

Coincidentally, this is the second game Fitzpatrick has missed this season, and the second time they have won without him. The first was a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady, which Wallace, Cameron Sutton, and Ahkello Witherspoon also missed.

Chances are pretty high that the All-Pro safety will have to miss at least one more game after his appendectomy, so it’s a good thing that they were able to get Kazee back when they did. He will be needed, not just while Fitzpatrick is out, but after he gets back as well, as a versatile piece of the secondary who can add both experience and diversity.

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