Heavy senior reporter Matt Lombardo reported the Steelers have agreed to terms on a new contract with Kazee on March 14.
After losing Sutton, Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora called Kazee a “must re-sign” free agent for Pittsburgh.
“[Kazee] has that chess piece versatility to play over slot, to spin and play safety, to wear a lot of hats on this defense,” Kozora wrote on Twitter. “Good ball skills and physical for his size.”
Sources confirmed to Lombardo that the contract for Kazee is a two-year deal.
Steelers Re-Sign Safety Damontae Kazee
Kazee’s first season with the Steelers got off to a rocky start. He began the season on injured reserve with a broken forearm and then the NFL suspended him three games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
The veteran safety didn’t play his first game for the Steelers until November 13. By then, many considered the Steelers out of the playoff hunt at 2-6.
But Kazee played well during the second half. He recorded 20 combined tackles with 2 interceptions and 2 pass defenses during nine games. Kazee started four of those contests.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kazee was the fourth-best defender for the Steelers during the 2022 season.
Kazee, who will turn 30 in June, began his career with the Atlanta Falcons as a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He played four seasons with the Falcons before joining the Dallas Cowboys in 2021.
Kazee has recorded 14 interceptions, 271 combined tackles and 19 pass defenses in six NFL seasons. During 2018, he led the league with 7 interceptions.
How Kazee Fits With the Steelers’ 2023 Plans
Kazee is the first free agent the Steelers have re-signed. In free agency, the Steelers also added cornerback Patrick Peterson on March 13.
Fellow safety Terrell Edmunds is also a free agent this offseason. It’s unclear if the Steelers are interested in bringing back Edmunds after re-signing Kazee, but Kozora speculated that that now seems unlikely.
“I don’t want to guarantee it but my guess is Edmunds goes elsewhere,” Kozora wrote on Twitter.
Perhaps Edmunds won’t return, but even with the arrival of Peterson and return of Kazee, the Steelers may not be done addressing their secondary this offseason. For Kazee to be utilized in a variety of roles throughout the secondary as Sutton was, the Steelers may need another potential starter.
Sutton and Edmunds were third and fourth on the team in defensive snaps last season. Together, they combined for 1,817 snaps on defense in 2022.
Kazee and Peterson can make up for a lot of those snaps. Kazee played just 25.7% of the team’s defensive snaps during 2022 and should see a significant increase in playing time next season.
But when he dressed, Kazee lined up for 54% of Pittsburgh’s snaps on defense in 2022. When he returned to the active roster, the Steelers utilized a lot of 3-safety looks.
Therefore, it’s probably premature to altogether rule out Edmunds returning. To continue deploying three safeties on the field at once, the Steelers need another reliable player in the back end of their secondary.
But whatever else happens, Kazee will definitely be back. He appears poised for a bigger role with the Steelers in 2023.