Damontae Kazee Suspended: NFL’s Season Ban on Steelers’ Safety Explained Following Hit on Michael Pittman Jr.

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Damontae Kazee, the Steelers safety, faced suspension following a hit on Indianapolis receiver Michael Pittman Jr. during the Steelers’ game against the Colts. This hit caused Pittman to suffer a concussion, resulting in Kazee’s ejection from the game. The surprise suspension sparked debate as observers noted that Pittman’s diving motion may have influenced Kazee’s target, potentially making the sequence look more severe than intended.

The NFL decided to suspend Kazee due to violating the league’s safety rules designed to protect players. Jon Runyan, NFL Vice President of Football Operations, outlined the reasoning behind the suspension in a letter to Kazee, citing his repeated violations throughout the season. The league emphasized Kazee’s history of infractions, which included fines for impermissible helmet use and hits on defenseless receivers leading up to the incident involving Pittman.

Runyan specifically highlighted Kazee’s forcible hit on Pittman’s head/neck area while the receiver was in a defenseless posture. The league deemed Kazee’s actions flagrant, resulting in his disqualification from the game and ultimately the suspension.

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As a result of his repeated violations and the risk of injury to opposing players, the NFL imposed a severe penalty. Kazee was suspended for the remainder of the 2023 NFL regular season. However, following an appeal, James Thrash ruled that Kazee could potentially return for the 2024 NFL postseason if the Steelers qualified for the playoffs. Originally, the league barred him from any potential postseason games but allowed for a postseason return pending qualification.

Losing Kazee poses a significant setback for the Steelers’ defense, which is already missing key players like Keanu Neal and faced Minkah Fitzpatrick’s injury against the Colts. The absence of their top safeties could impact the team’s chances as they strive for a playoff spot.

Kazee’s suspension also significantly impacts his finances, with total fines for the season amounting to $267,363, equivalent to about 22% of his $1.25 million base salary. This total includes fines from missed game checks totaling around $208,333 and additional fines amounting to $59,030 from the five infractions throughout the 2023 NFL season, as reported by Spotrac.com.

Date Infraction Fine
Sept. 22 Unsportsmanlike conduct $11,806
Oct. 27 Impermissible use of the helmet $11,806
Nov. 3 Impermissible use of the helmet $11,806
Nov. 3 Hit to a defenseless receiver $11,806
Dec. 1 Hit to a defenseless receiver $11,806