The Pittsburgh Steelers signed former undrafted tight end Dax Raymond to their roster last week and now the Utah State product should get a chance to earn at least a practice squad spot with the team during training camp. Earlier this week, Raymond was a guest on the Aggies All the Way Podcast and he talked early in his interview about what led to the Steelers wanting to sign him without even putting him through a workout.
“They told me that they had seen my film and they had a pretty good draft grade on me coming into the draft last year, but because of previous injuries and whatnot, they were hesitant, Raymond said. “And now seeing that I was open and available, they still had interest in me, and they thought this is their chance to grab me and they did. And I’m happy about it.”
Raymond, who was signed originally by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in May of 2019, opened last season on the teams Reserve/Injured list. He was then waived by the Bears with an injury settlement but did circle back to their practice squad in October. Raymond spent the final 11 weeks of the 2019 regular season on the Bears practice squad and this past week he talked about what his rookie season was like.
“It was great, it was my first year in the NFL, Raymond said. “I definitely learned a lot in Chicago. There was a lot of tight ends, which made it really hard just to get any opportunities. But I think for me, it was a great year just to get my feet wet and learn from older guys. And obviously the Bears waived me after the year, but for me it was a great year. I feel like I developed a ton and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and help the Steelers out in any way that I can.”
Raymond also talked about what it’s like being a player on an NFL team’s practice squad.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Raymond said. “You get to imitate a lot of really good tight ends. Each week I had the fun challenge of trying to block Khalil Mack every week. So, if you’re practicing against him, you’re going to be ready for anyone. So, I took that challenge every week being practice squad and having Khalil Mack come at me every day.
“So, it’s fun. You’re part of team. It’s the game-day you don’t get to go out on the field, which is hard for sure because that’s what we’re all there for is for the games. And my game-day was the padded practices when I can go head up with Khalil Mack and other great players.”
It’s obvious that Raymond is proud of the time he got to practice against Mack and that the Bears edge-rusher, who was the NFL’s highest paid defensive player until just a few weeks ago, left a lasting impression on him.
“He taught me a lot,” Raymond said of Mack. “He definitely put me in my place, that’s for sure.”
Raymond, however, knows that Mack probably made him a better blocking tight end in the process.
“I had no complaints about it,” Raymond said. “You know, it wasn’t really about, am I going to beat him or how quickly is he going to beat me? So, as long as I could hold my ground for a second longer each day, I was happy with how I was doing.”
After coming from a team in the Bears that had an enormous amount of tight ends on their roster last year during training camp, Raymond admitted that he looked at the amount the Steelers had at that position and the kind of competition he faced upon making the decision to sign with them.
“Yeah, for sure, you glance at that,” Raymond said. “You don’t want to get too into it because everything’s changed day in and day out. But they have a great tight end room. There’s a ton of tight ends here as well that I can learn a lot from. Yeah, me saying a ton of a fight ends, it’s still half as many as there was in Chicago. That’s also a very good thing. When I saw that, that’s another great reason to come here.”
Signing with the Steelers should also result in Raymond being able to catch a few passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the coming weeks and that’s something else that Raymond said has him excited about landing with Pittsburgh.
“Oh yeah, that that’ll be a dream come true, that’s for sure,” Raymond said about the possibility of catching passes from Roethlisberger. “It’ll be a thrill when it happens and you know, I’ll be excited for it and I won’t forget it, that’s for sure.”