The Pittsburgh Steelers only somewhat recently officially re-signed veteran safety Damontae Kazee, even though the deal had been reported some time ago. With the departure of starting safety Terrell Edmunds, of course, the signing takes on even greater significance.
Signed last year after the draft to serve as a top backup and as a sub-package defender, Kazee provided a spark in the secondary when he got onto the field. And it was delayed — he broke his forearm at the end of the preseason — until after the bye. But his teammates felt it, like cornerback Levi Wallace.
“You love when a guy is out there playing with so much passion”, he said of Kazee, as quoted by Teresa Varley for the team’s website in an article about the Steelers re-signing the safety. “It brings so much energy and good spirit to the team, especially the defensive back room.
“When you have a guy who can instantly come in and make plays like that, you want to play for someone like that. He is just a great dude. I am how I am. He is completely different. Always talking. You can hear him now. It’s fun to have someone like that”.
It is unclear exactly when these comments were made; it is unknown if they were particularly recent, though it certainly sounds as though it came at least sometime after he returned from the Reserve/Injured List and was already having an impact on the defense. Either way, the sentiment stands for the present.
A full-time starter for most of his career, Kazee had to take a bit of a backseat a year ago, at least partially for non-football reasons. During his one-year stint in Dallas, he was arrested for drunk driving. He ended up signing a veteran-minimum deal with the Steelers after the draft.
Though he only played 273 snaps for Pittsburgh over nine games after the bye, including starts in two games that either Edmunds or Minkah Fitzpatrick missed, he was impactful, recording 20 tackles and two interceptions. It was the fourth season of his career out of six in which he intercepted at least two passes.
The ability to take the ball away is obviously a main characteristic of his game that attracted the Steelers. They re-signed him to a two-year, $6 million contract, which is more than they were willing to offer Edmunds.
The team also added another veteran safety in Keanu Neal, signing him to a reported two-year contract worth $4.25 million. That is probably more than many were expecting when the move was first reported.
We do not yet know how snaps might be divided between the two safeties, or if one will play on a full-time basis and the other in sub-packages. Neal is regarded as more of a box defender, while Kazee is seen as a coverage safety. He is capable of playing above his weight, so to speak.