Pittsburgh Steelers safety Damontae Kazee is many things. He’s a veteran. He’s experienced. He’s an intelligent player. One thing he’s not is big. Another thing he’s not is soft. He may not be the most physically imposing player on the field, but often enough, when he hits you, you’re going down, and you’re not picking up any more yards. What drives him to play this way?
“It comes from my dad”, he told reporters on Thursday, via Teresa Varley for the team’s website. “He used to watch our hitting drills and made sure we always went hard. You couldn’t be out there going soft because he would tell us straight up, if he is wasting his money, we better go out there and play”.
Of course, he’s not talking about drills with the Steelers. I presume that he’s talking about peewee football. It also, perhaps, doesn’t hurt that he grew up as a two-way player, toting the ball as a running back, so he learned about contact from both sides of the equation.
He told reporters that there were times his father would push him beyond a point he felt at the time was beneficial, but he considers all of it growth. “You just have to learn from it, the little mistakes, going over it and executing it”, he said. “It made me very aggressive. I played with my heart instead of my size”.
Now, Kazee isn’t the shortest player around, listed at 5’11”. But considering the force with which he is able to hit, he’s got a wiry frame at 174 pounds. These qualities were evident in his tape over four years with the Atlanta Falcons and last season with the Dallas Cowboys, but they’ve carried over here in training camp and during the preseason.
A 49-game starter over the past five years, he is entering his sixth season projected to be a role player. His market took a hit following a DWI arrest last year with the Cowboys, and he is simply looking to make a fresh start.
The Steelers debuted a three-safety sub-package last Saturday, of which he was a part, along with starters Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. We don’t know how much they intend to float that look once the regular season actually starts, but it’s a package they can call on if appropriate.
Given his extensive experience as a starter, he would also be called upon easily in general to step into the starting lineup. Though he is not very big, as we’ve been talking about, he has enough power to play strong safety if necessary, and is established as a free safety already.