The Steelers will get a boost with the return of suspended safety Damontae Kazee for their wild-card round game next week. Along with Minkah Fitzpatrick’s return, the Steelers should have an array of safeties to use now that they will get healthy and secure with Kazee and Fitzpatrick. Kazee was officially activated from the reserve/suspended list on Monday. The Steelers will have a roster exemption, meaning they do not have to make a corresponding move to get him on the 53-man roster. It is unknown how long that exemption is for now.
Kazee was suspended initially for the entire season, including the playoffs, but can return now after it was appealed down to just the three remaining preseason games. The suspension came on the heels of Kazee being ejected for a hit to the helmet of a defenseless receiver in Saturday’s 30-13 Steelers loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Kazee hit wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. in the head with his shoulder as Pittman was diving over the middle of the field in an attempt to catch a pass from Gardner Minshew.
Kazee has been fined five times this season for violating the NFL’s health and safety protocols and that history played a significant role in the steep suspension handed down by the league. Regardless, the Steelers will not have a chance to play with their safeties back, and the emergence of Eric Rowe opens up possibilities for what they can do. Fitzpatrick declared after the game that he would return following a knee injury that sidelined him for three weeks.
The three-time All-Pro has had a miserable season, playing in just 10 games while missing time with a hamstring injury, playing through a broken hand, and now the left knee injury that has had him out since the second quarter of the Steelers’ Week 15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Trenton Thompson (neck) and Keanu Neal (rib) remain out with injuries. Elijah Riley and Miles Killebrew served as depth at the position on Saturday. Fitzpatrick earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod despite the injury plagued season. In 10 games, he has recorded 64 tackles, one tackle for a loss and defended three passes this season.
Kazee has mentioned that he will learn from his suspension. As for his role when he returns, Kazee will even ‘play special teams’ to play and be around the football.
“I don’t know just yet,” Kazee said. “But I got my job back. It’s good to be back here. Wherever they put me at, that’s what I’m playing. I don’t care if they put him on special teams.”