The Pittsburgh Steelers had two free agent safeties this offseason, Damontae Kazee and Terrell Edmunds. It felt likely that one, but not both, would return. In the end, Edmunds turned down the Steelers’ contract offer to head cross state to Philadelphia while Kazee came back on a two-year deal.
Speaking to reporters following Tuesday’s OTA session, Kazee said he was happy to come back but is unsure of his role in 2023.
“I really don’t know at this point,” he told reporters via Steelers Live when asked of his role. “Wherever they put us, we just gotta make it happen at the end of the day. So I don’t know if I’m going back on third downs, switching off with base, nickel or whatever. So just gotta wait and see.”
Signed to a cheap one-year deal on the final day of the 2022 NFL Draft, Kazee initially took first-team free safety reps in training camp while Minkah Fitzpatrick was sidelined by a wrist injury suffered while riding his bike. They became extra valuable reps for Kazee, getting first-team work, after he broke his arm in the team’s preseason finale.
Kazee returned after the bye week and mostly played in dime packages as the sixth defensive back. He had a successful latter half of the year as the Steelers’ defense locked things down, allowing more than 17 points in just one game. Kazee made an impact, picking off a pair of passes while breaking up two more and finishing the year with 20 tackles.
As he alluded to, he was primarily a third down/dime package player last season. According to our charting, excluding the Week Ten game where he replaced an injured Fitzpatrick, he logged 34.4% of his snaps on third or fourth down. Factor in him playing on early downs in obvious passing situations and 56.1% of his snaps came in the team’s dime package. Only 20.7% came in base packages.
But with Edmunds gone and the team’s slot corner uncertain, Kazee’s role could expand next season. He’ll battle Keanu Neal to be the team’s starting strong safety and if he loses out, he should still retain his passing down role. He may also see time in the slot though early reports indicate Chandon Sullivan is getting first crack there. Regardless of what the team asks him to do, Kazee’s happy to be back.
“The coaching staff and the brotherhood we’ve got up here, I love everything about here,” he said.