If the contract former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds signed with the Philadelphia Eagles is any indication, they tried to re-sign him, but not very hard. By the time that deal got done, they had already re-signed Damontae Kazee, and also added another veteran safety in Keanu Neal.
If rapport is a concern, with Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick having worked together since 2019, then that is at least one thing that Kazee and Neal bring to the table. Pittsburgh will be the third different organization for which they will serve as teammates.
“This is our sixth year together, so I know what he brings. I’m looking forward to it”, Kazee told Amanda Godsey of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. “Just wait and see what we’re gonna bring”.
He admits that even he will have to wait and see how everything shakes out, because the starting lineup isn’t quite settled yet. While Kazee has been a starter for most of his career, he signed with the Steelers in 2022 on a one-year deal to be a backup. Neal has also served as both starter and situational defender.
Neal was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. Kazee came to Atlanta by way of the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Although Neal missed most of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to injury, the two spent considerable time starting together.
Both of them left Atlanta in 2021 and signed with the Dallas Cowboys. There, Kazee was a full-time starter while Neal transitioned into more of a rotational role, including playing more in the box, almost like a linebacker. He only played 70 percent of the snaps or more in four games that year.
But last year Kazee signed with the Steelers and Neal signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both acted as situational reserves for their respective teams, but now they may be competing to see who will be the full-time starter alongside Fitzpatrick in Pittsburgh. While opinions have varied, most seem to expect it to be Kazee.
Kazee missed the first half of the 2022 season with the Steelers after suffering an arm fracture in August. He returned for the final nine games, starting four (two as a sub-package player, two due to injury), logging 273 defensive snaps. He finished the year with 20 tackles and two interceptions.
In 17 games last season for the Buccaneers, Neal is credited with eight starts, logging 581 snaps. He recorded 63 tackles, including two for loss, with half a sack, an interception, and four total passes defensed.
During his five years in Pittsburgh, Edmunds started 75 of 79 games, registering 410 tackles with 15 for loss, five sacks, five interceptions, and 26 passes defensed. Even though he had one of his most unremarkable seasons in 2022 statistically, many regarded it as his best.
Yet he signed a contract with the Eagles worth less than what the Steelers agreed to pay both Kazee and Neal. We don’t know what the Steelers offered Edmunds, but we know they offered him something, since general manager Omar Khan told reporters that they tried to keep him. The possibility of him simply wanting a fresh start and to play for a more competitive team has to be considered as well.
But now the Steelers turn to a pair of safeties who have ample experience together, which should help in the transition in a secondary that has undergone a lot of change. Both should see the field considerably and contribute in their own ways.