Recently Steelers S Damontae Kazee spoke with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com about his short time in the Black and Gold after signing with Pittsburgh as a free agent upon the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft as well as the camaraderie he has with the other safeties on the roster.
When asked by Missi Matthews if his fourth down stop against the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend was his most impressive play he’s put on tape thus far as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kazee responded with a more general response regarding how his usage has changed from his previous stop in Dallas to his current role in Pittsburgh.
“I’ll say me just coming down in the box to help out,” Kazee said to Matthews on video from the team’s YouTube channel. “That’s the surprising thing, just playing free safety in Dan Quinn’s defense. I was always the back guy, so didn’t get the roam down or nowhere. So over here we’re playing left and right. So, you got to play everywhere.”
Last season with the Dallas Cowboys, Damontae Kazee primarily played as a free safety and manned the back end of the defense either in a single high or two high look with Jayron Kearse more often rolling up into the box. So far in Pittsburgh, Kazee has played a little bit of both, subbing in for Minkah Fitzpatrick to start camp when he was on the NFI list with a thumb injury at free safety, but also has taken some reps where he would roll down in the box as well.
Cowboys DC Dan Quinn primarily runs a Cover 2 defense that originated when he was with the Seattle Seahawks where the free safety would play deep most of the time much like Earl Thomas did for a majority of his career. Kazee played a similar role in Quinn’s defensive system when he was the head coach in Atlanta, primarily being tasked with covering the backend to jump passes and make plays on the football.
However, in Pittsburgh the free safety is allowed to rotate down more and play in the box to help in run support. We saw that a bunch last season with Fitzpatrick leading the team in tackles given the role he had to play and Kazee has been used in a similar fashion thus far through two preseason games, playing both on the backend and near the LOS as more of a moveable chess piece.
While a smaller defensive back in terms of size, Kazee isn’t lacking for willingness or capability as a tackler, having the desire to come downhill and stick ballcarriers in run support or immediately after the catch. He has been a consistent tackler thus far in the secondary for Pittsburgh which is something he acknowledges is a more underrated aspect of his play but is important to the defense’s success.