The NFL on Monday suspended Pittsburgh Steelers safety Damontae Kazee for the remainder of the 2023 season "for repeated violations" of health and safety rules, including his hit on Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. on Saturday.
Midway through the second quarter, as Pittman dove for a pass, Kazee lowered his helmet and shoulder into Pittman's head. Pittman sustained a concussion on the play and is in the NFL concussion protocol; Kazee was flagged and ejected for the hit.
NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan, in a letter to Kazee, wrote:
"With 8:49 remaining in the 2nd quarter, you were involved in a play that the League considers a serious violation of the playing rules. The video of the play shows that you delivered a forcible blow to the head/neck area of Colts' receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who was in a defenseless posture. You had an unobstructed path to your opponent and the illegal contact could have been avoided. Your actions were flagrant, and as a result, you were disqualified from the game."
"...When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player, it is appropriate to impose substantially greater penalties."
Runyan issued the suspension, which covers the remainder of the regular season and any potential Steelers playoff games, for Kazee's violation of the NFL's rule on hitting a defenseless player's head or neck.
From the NFL:
_"Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 (b)(1) which states that it is a foul if a player "forcibly hits the defenseless player's head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player's neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him." _
Article 9 (a)(3) further explains that a player in a defenseless posture includes "[a] player attempting to catch a pass who has not had time to clearly become a runner…"
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 also states, "[a] player who initiates contact against a defenseless opponent is responsible for avoiding an illegal act. A standard of strict liability applies for any contact against an opponent, even if his body position is in motion, and irrespective of any acts by him, such as ducking his head or curling up his body in anticipation of contact."
Kazee, a veteran who started nine of 14 games for the Steelers, may appeal the suspension under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.