Much like they did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Pittsburgh Steelers put together a strong defensive performance at home despite several injuries to key starters on the secondary. With All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick out, the team resorted to veteran safety Demontae Kazee, who was recently taken off IR. When asked whether there were schematic changes with the injury, Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin stated that there were none according to the team’s Twitter account.
“Schematically? No.” Tomlin said when asked about the veteran safety. “I thought all of those guys did a nice job. We got multiple packages and so forth and it was Kazee primarily. But Minkah is a versatile chess piece, man. It was a lot of people, man. It was Norwood and some others too.”
Kazee was signed shortly after the draft this past offseason, and played a big role in training camp. Due to an injury and suspension, he did not make his debut until today’s Week 10 victory, where he nabbed an interception and was part of a strong defensive effort.
As Tomlin said, replacing Fitzpatrick was a group effort. The team used a mix of Kazee and second year safety Tre Norwood to try to replace everything Fitzpatrick does in the margins, and it’s safe to say it worked. The team did this without diverting from their scheme, which is impressive and something the team has done well this year.
Given Fitzpatrick is likely out for the next few weeks with an appendectomy, expect a lot more of Kazee and Norwood. While the Saints’ passing attack isn’t exactly elite, they do have weapons, and shutting them out in the second half with an injured secondary is beyond impressive.
As the team prepares for a rematch against AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals, they will need every bit of what Kazee and Norwood have in a must-win matchup. The Bengals are playing without top receiver Ja’Marr Chase, but have looked solid regardless. In Week 1, Fitzpatrick had an early pick-6 against quarterback Joe Burrow and a game-saving block on a PAT kick. Needless to say, his impact will be missed in this rematch.