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Steelers sign Gentry, Kazee

The Steelers are keeping two of their own players, signing tight end Zach Gentry to a one-year contract and safety Damontae Kazee to a two-year contract.

Gentry was drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Michigan.

In four seasons he has played in 40 games, starting 26. He has 39 career receptions for 303 yards.

In 2022 Gentry started 13 of the 17 games he played, used significantly as a blocking tight end. He finished the year with 19 receptions for 132 yards.

"Zach has really had to have the attitude and appetite to mix it up the likes of those guys inside, blocking T.J. (Watt) in practice," said Steelers tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts in an article during the season on "(Former Steelers tight ends coach) James Daniel had that job, making the transition of being a tight end that thinks 'I want to be more in the passing game,' to being a blocker. So, some of the transitional part, I give that to James Daniel.

"When I was able to get in and he wants to be coached, let's talk the technical things, because he hadn't done it all his life. He was a quarterback. He sees things really well, so that makes it easy for him. He conceptualizes, so he can imagine how to do it. Now, it's just getting his body to do it."

Gentry came to the Steelers as a converted college quarterback. He had 49 receptions for 817 yards and four touchdowns combined in 2017 and 2018 after making the transition from quarterback to tight end.

Gentry started 24 of the 33 games he played at Michigan and finished with 49 catches for 817 yards and four touchdowns. His final season he earned All-Big Ten third-team and All-Big Ten honorable mention honors. He started 13 games that season, catching 32 passes for 514 yards and two touchdowns.

Take a look at photographs of Steelers TE Zach Gentry from the 2022 season

Kazee, who is entering his seventh season, originally signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in May of 2022.

Kazee has played in 78 career games, with 53 starts, in his first six seasons. He has 257 career tackles, 172 of them solo stops, 14 interceptions, 19 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles and three tackles for a loss.

Kazee played in nine games, starting four, in 2022, after starting the season on the Reserve/Injured List. He finished with 19 tackles, 11 of them solo stops, two interceptions and two passes defensed.

Kazee brings energy and passion to the Steelers defense, something that rubs off on his teammates.

"You love when a guy is out there playing with so much passion," said cornerback Levi Wallace. "It brings so much energy and good spirit to the team, especially the defensive back room. When you have a guy who can instantly come in and make plays like that, you want to play for someone like that. He is just a great dude. I am how I am. He is completely different. Always talking. You can hear him now. It's fun to have someone like that."

Kazee said during the season that is just who he is.

"I have been that type of guy my entire life," said Kazee. "Even in college, when we had to wake up at 5 in the morning, I would be out there on the field talking. That has always been me. It's always been in my blood.

"I like to talk to my teammates. Get them hype. Put some juice in them. I am like that all of the time. Games, practice, whatever. Practice is like a game to me. You have to put it on film at the end of the day, so you have to be that way always."

The fact that it picks his teammates up, gives them energy, is something that excites Kazee even more.

"When one person sees it, it makes others want to do it," said Kazee. "It brings everyone together. That is why I do it. People teach in different ways. Leaders lead by doing different stuff. Me, I am just bringing energy. That is my point. My point is to bring energy as a leader so that is what I do."

Kazee came to the Steelers last year after spending the 2021 season with the Dallas Cowboys. He finished that season with 51 tackles, 34 of them solo stops, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and four passes defensed.

He spent his first four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons (2017-20), who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He played in 52 games for the Falcons, starting 34.

Kazee played college football at San Diego State where he started his final 41 games at cornerback. He left there as the school's all-time interception leader with 17 and was a two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.

Take a look at photographs of Steelers S Damontae Kazee from the 2022 season