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Steelers ‘Lucky To Have’ A High-Energy, Enthusiastic Playmaker In Damontae Kazee, According To Mike Tomlin

The Pittsburgh Steelers seemingly had some grand plans for veteran safety Damontae Kazee in three-safety sets when the franchise signed the veteran safety following the 2022 NFL Draft.

Sometimes, the best-laid plans have to wait a bit, though.

That’s what happened with Kazee and the Steelers this season after the veteran safety suffered a broken forearm and dislocated wrist in the final preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium, landing him on the Reserve/Injured list.

Following surgery to place a metal plate and nine screws in his arm and a nine-week stint on IR — which included a three-game suspension for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy — Kazee made his return in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints and was that jolt of energy, leadership and playmaking ability that the Steelers envisioned when they signed him to a one-year deal in April.

In his return against the Saints, Kazee — filling in for Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety — recorded four tackles, picked off a pass that led to a Steelers touchdown, and was that vocal, physical presence the Steelers were hoping he would be to start the season.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday following the win over the Saints while previewing the Week 11 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tomlin credited Kazee for bringing energy and enthusiasm to his role on the Steelers, adding that the Steelers are lucky to have a player of his caliber in their arsenal.

“Really, very much so,” Tomlin stated to reporters regarding Kazee and being what they expected, according to video via the Steelers official YouTube page. “And I think that’s why we were all so excited about him, but at the same time, I think that’s why we’re all disappointed when he went down, I mean, this guy is just a football lover. He brings energy and enthusiasm. He’s a good communicator, he’s a playmaker. We’re lucky to have him.”

It was rather disappointing to lose Kazee for much of the season due to the arm injury suffered in the final preseason game. He was expected to be a key chess piece for the Steelers defensively, allowing Pittsburgh to do a number of things in three-safety sets. Once he was cleared to return from the Reserve/Injured list and activated on Thursday, the expectation was that the Steelers would roll out the three-safety set with Kazee, Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick against the Saints.

Then, Fitzpatrick went down with an emergency appendectomy, forcing Kazee to step up into the starting role at free safety.

Credit to the veteran for stepping into a larger role and holding it down, playing some sound football overall – outside of an unnecessary roughness penalty on a high, hard hit on the sideline that led to a Saints touchdown.

His interception was crucial, as was his sound tackling abilities and presence in the middle of the field. He set the tone for the Steelers on the day and did a great job communicating without Fitzpatrick in the fold. That will need to continue moving forward if the Steelers defense wants to get back to its dominant ways.

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