Damontae Kazee

Steelers Place K Chris Boswell On IR, Activate S Damontae Kazee

The Steelers are up a defender but down a key special teamer. The team announced that they’ve activated safety Damontae Kazee from IR and placed kicker Chris Boswell on injured reserve.

Kazee inked a one-year, $1.19MM deal with the Steelers back in May after having spent the 2021 season in Dallas. The 29-year-old suffered a broken arm and dislocated wrist towards the end of the preseason, landing him on IR after 53-man rosters were set. Kazee returned to practice in October.

Kazee has plenty of starting experience, starting 15 games for the Cowboys in 2021 and 34 games for the Falcons between 2017 and 2020. The veteran will serve as an experienced option behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.

“At the end of the day we have to make plays, get turnovers, give our offense another opportunity to go score some points,” Kazee said (via the team’s website). “We just have to trust our keys. Trust everything the coaches are giving us. Execute the plays. At the end of the day, they can call out any play. We just have to execute it. That’s what we need to do more.

“We just have to work together. We’ve got to be brothers. You just have to do your job so your brother can do his. Everybody’s job is important. Make sure we do what we have to do, execute the plays and come out with a win.”

Boswell missed Week 8 with a groin injury, and despite getting an extra week of rest with the bye, he’ll now be sidelined for at least the next four games. The veteran kicker has connected on 12 of his 16 field goal attempts and all nine of his extra point tries this season. Nick Sciba filled in for Boswell in Week 8, but the Steelers recently signed Matthew Wright off the Chiefs practice squad to fill in for Boswell going forward.

Injury Updates: Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Seahawks

Ezekiel Elliott is expected back this weekend. After the star running back missed Week 8, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that he expects Elliott to be back on the field against the Packers on Sunday, per Jon Machota of The Athletic (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Elliott himself told Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his knee is getting better and the swelling has decreased (Twitter link). If the RB does return this weekend, he acknowledged that he’ll wear a knee brace.

Elliott has started each of his seven appearances this season. While his 63.3 rushing yards per game is about on-par with his recent performance, his yards-per-touch is currently a career-low mark (4.1). Backup Tony Pollard showed up when he earned an opportunity to start prior to the bye, finishing with 131 rushing yards on 14 carries. Despite the numbers, Jones made it clear that he’s sticking with Elliott atop the depth chart.

“There’s no argument,” Jones recently said of replacing Elliott as the starting RB. “Zeke’s ability to punish, Zeke’s ability to deliver, Zeke’s ability, what he does for us in pass protection, and, frankly, Zeke’s ability to make big plays are there, and we’re going to go as Zeke goes. I really mean he’s that integral to our success this year.”

Some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Meanwhile, Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith is about two or three weeks away from returning to practice, Stephen Jones recently said (via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas News on Twitter). If Smith requires his entire three-week window to get back into game shape, then the lineman could be eyeing a late-December return. The veteran offensive lineman suffered a hamstring injury during training camp that’s sidelined him for the first chunk of the season.
  • While Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. landed on injured reserve earlier this month thanks to an ankle issue, the injury likely won’t require surgery, coach Kevin O’Connell said (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter). Smith Jr. hasn’t started a game yet this season but has put up his standard numbers, hauling in 22 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns through seven games.
  • Damontae Kazee is expected to be activated off IR this week, and the Steelers safety provided some information on the injury that’s knocked him out for the first few months of the season. In addition to breaking his whole forearm, Kazee also suffered a dislocated wrist that “popped back into place during surgery,” per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor on Twitter. When he next takes the field, he’ll be armed with a padded brace to protect his arm. Kazee joined the Steelers this past offseason after starting 15 games for the Cowboys in 2021. Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged how much veterans like Kazee and trade-deadline acquisition William Jackson III will help the defense. “Anytime you get veteran presences, it is an asset to you,” Tomlin said (via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic). “Been-there, done-that guys, and those guys are that.”
  • Seahawks linebacker/special teams ace Cullen Gillaspia injured his knee on Sunday and will need surgery, according to ESPN’s Brady Henderson (on Twitter). Fortunately, the injury isn’t as bad as initially feared, but Gillaspia is still expected to be sidelined for some time. The former seventh-round pick joined the Seahawks practice squad back in September, but he’s since appeared in six games while playing the majority of Seattle’s special teams snaps.

Steelers Still Eyeing Week 10 T.J. Watt Return

Last week, the Steelers opened the IR-return window on T.J. Watt, leading to questions of when they would envision his return. Despite this Sunday marking the second week in which the defending Defensive Player of the Year could be activated, that remains unlikely to happen.

Watt has been sidelined since suffering a major pectoral injury in Week 1. The fact that he was able to rehab it left the door open to a return at some point in the season, but it came as no surprise that he was placed on IR. His timeline to see the field was pushed back, however, when he underwent knee surgery just under one month ago.

Given Pittsburgh’s struggles this year, along with Watt’s crucial importance to the team, the Steelers have remained understandably cautious with him. Indeed, as confirmed by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Week 10 has always remained the target with respect to Watt’s return (Twitter link). That contest against the Saints would be the last opportunity for Watt to be activated; if he fails to return by next week, he will be out for the remainder of the season.

While Pittsburgh sits at 2-6, leaving their chances of a postseason berth – or, at a minimum, extending their streak of never having a losing season during the Mike Tomlin era – in serious doubt, Watt returning to the fold would of course be a welcomed sight. In his absence, the team ranks 21st in the league with 15 sacks, a far cry from their normal position in that regard during the 28-year-old’s standout career.

The Steelers are on their bye this week, which gives both Watt and safety Damontae Kazee time to ease back into game shape. While November 13 will be the team’s first contest since trading away Chase Claypool in a significant move on offense, then, it should also see a pair of important defenders make their return to the field.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/20/22

Today’s minor transactions:

Dallas Cowboys

Pittsburgh Steelers

Basham suffered a quad injury in Week 1 that landed him on injured reserve. The defensive lineman joined the Cowboys last season, finishing with 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 17 games (six starts). The 28-year-old saw time in 18 defensive snaps in Week 1 before suffering his injury.

Kazee landed on IR after the preseason, and he now has a three-week window to return to the roster. The defensive back joined Pittsburgh this offseason after spending the 2021 campaign in Dallas, where he had 52 tackles, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles in 17 games (15 starts).

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/21/22

Today’s minor transactions:

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Signed off Rams practice squad: DE Benton Whitley

Los Angeles Rams

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Kazee was suspended three games for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. After signing with the Steelers this offseason, he landed on injured reserve after the preseason. Per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor (on Twitter), Kazee will be allowed to serve his suspension while he’s on IR.

Hopkins was also suspended three games for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse.

Steelers Move WR Calvin Austin, S Damontae Kazee To IR

One of the two rookie wideouts the Steelers drafted this year will not start the season on time. Calvin Austin III joins safety Damontae Kazee in being moved to IR ahead of Week 1.

Because Pittsburgh carried both through to IR following Tuesday’s roster cut, each can return after four games. The NFL both increased the IR-return timetable from three games to four this season and, after unlimited IR comebacks could ensue in 2020 and 2021, limited players coming off IR to eight this year.

With Austin and Kazee shifting off the roster for the first four weeks, the Steelers re-signed linebacker Marcus Allen and offensive lineman Trent Scott. Allen has been with the team since 2018, while Scott — a Panthers spot starter over the past two seasons — initially caught on with Pittsburgh in May.

After flashing this offseason, Austin sustained a foot injury that has forced him to miss time. The Steelers took the Memphis in the fourth round (138th overall), doing so just before the Ravens planned to select him. The Austin pick came two rounds after Pittsburgh selected George Pickens. Pittsburgh’s second-rounder is expected to join Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as the team’s top receivers. The Steelers, as they are wont to do, reloaded in the draft at the position — after letting JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington walk in free agency.

The Steelers had prepared to place Kazee on IR since his injury in their preseason finale. A 15-game Cowboys starter last season, Kazee is expected to miss extensive time due to a wrist injury. The Steelers placed safety Karl Joseph on IR before the season, but because they waited until after setting their roster to shift Kazee to the injured list, the latter is eligible to return during the year.

Steelers To Place S Damontae Kazee On IR

Damontae Kazee signed with the Steelers shortly after the draft, coming to Pittsburgh after making 15 starts with the Cowboys last season. He will not match that total in 2022.

The Steelers plan to place Kazee on IR, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. A wrist injury led to Kazee’s exit from Sunday’s preseason finale, and Dulac adds the veteran defensive back will need surgery.

It is unclear if the surgery will knock Kazee out for the entire season, but he will not be on the Steelers’ 53-man roster. The only way Kazee could play in 2022 is if the Steelers released him from IR via an injury settlement. Kazee, 29, signed a one-year, $1.19MM deal with just $153K guaranteed in May.

The former Falcons and Cowboys starter was expected to be a Steelers backup, playing behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and the recently re-signed Terrell Edmunds. The Steelers have run into some trouble during the preseason regarding safety health; Karl Joseph landed on IR early last week.

Kazee, who led the league with seven interceptions in 2018, picked off two passes in 17 games last season. He also forced two fumbles, giving him seven over his five-year career. While special-teamer Miles Killebrew re-signed on a two-year deal in March, it would not surprise if the Steelers — after losing two veterans at the position — added a safety this week.

Steelers Sign S Damontae Kazee

The Steelers have signed free agent safety Damontae Kazee to a one-year deal, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (via Twitter). After re-signing Karl Joseph in March and reuniting with Terrell Edmunds at the end of April, it would seem that Pittsburgh’s safety contingent, led by two-time First Team All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick, is largely set.

Kazee brings plenty of starting experience to the table, with 49 starts in 69 regular season appearances. After four seasons with the Falcons, who made him a fifth-round draft choice in 2017, Kazee signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys last offseason. The San Diego State product appeared in nearly 80% of Dallas’ defensive snaps in 2021, recording 52 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a pair of interceptions.

Pro Football Focus assigned him a middling overall grade of 60.9, but given his experience and playmaking upside — 12 career picks, including a league-best seven in 2018 — he can be a useful part of the Steelers’ DB rotation. He also offers some positional versatility, as he is capable of playing corner as well as safety.

Kazee, who will turn 29 in June, also visited with the Seahawks in April. Given that Seattle’s safety depth chart is topped by Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, Kazee perhaps saw a better opportunity in Pittsburgh, despite the presence of Fitzpatrick.

The Steelers had been linked to free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu, but the transactions the club has made at the safety position in recent weeks suggest that Mathieu will be looking elsewhere for his next home. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, may be exploring a monster extension for Fitzpatrick, who is entering the final year of his contract.

Seahawks Host S Damontae Kazee

On the lookout for additions in the secondary, the Seahawks are hosting one of the top safeties still on the market today. Damontae Kazee is visiting Seattle, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter link). 

Kazee, 28, began his career with the Falcons in 2017. After a quiet rookie season, he established himself as a starter in his second year. The 2018 campaign saw him record a league-leading seven interceptions, along with 10 pass breakups and 82 tackles. His tenure with the Falcons ended with an Achilles tear in 2020, however.

Last offseason, the former fifth-rounder signed with the Cowboys. He started 15 of 17 contests in Dallas, making 52 tackles and notching a pair of interceptions. His 60.9 PFF grade is notably less than the one he earned in his career-best 2018 season, but is more in line with his normal ratings.

If he were to sign in Seattle, Kazee would face stiff competition for a starting role. The Seahawks have Jamal Adams under contract until 2026, and re-signed Quandre Diggs earlier this offseason. That pair constitutes an experienced (not to mention expensive) tandem, but the team lacks established depth behind them. Last month, Kazee was named as an option for the Steelers, who have yet to fill their vacancy at the position.

Latest On Steelers’ Safety Search

The 2021 offseason has seen the Steelers make number of changes, most notably at the quarterback position. Another area of the roster which has become a priority, though, is safety. As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports, the team has a number of options at the position. 

Fowler notes the connection some have made between the Steelers and the top remaining option at safety, Tyrann Mathieu. Given his pedigree and versatility – not to mention the unusually-large amount of financial flexibility Pittsburgh has this offseason – a deal between the two sides would make a good deal of sense. However, Fowler cautions that he is unsure how “real” that connection actually is.

That could lead the Steelers to a familiar face at the position. Fowler states that “a reunion is not off the table” between the team and Terrell Edmunds. The 25-year-old started 60 of his 64 games with Pittsburgh, racking up 340 tackles and five interceptions. With fellow safety Minkah Fitzpatrick only under contract for one more year, bringing back Edmunds on a short-term deal would at least provide continuity at the position for 2022.

Lastly, Fowler names Damontae Kazee as another noteworthy option. The 28-year-old spent last season in Dallas after four in Atlanta. For his career, he has totalled 12 interceptions (including a league-leading seven in 2018) and 7 pass deflections. Fowler reports that the Steelers “have him on their radar”.

Pittsburgh currently has just under $16MM in cap space; fitting in any of the three players named above should be relatively straightforward, then. Whether the team decides to add one of them, or go in another direction, could go a long way to helping their defense rebound from an overall disappointing performance in 2021.