Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: TE Dax Raymond
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: The Steelers guaranteed they’ll have a replacement for Vance McDonald when they drafted Pat Freiermuth in the second round, as Dax Raymond competes with Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, and Charles Johnson for the third tight end role — and missed out on rookie minicamp to start out.
Dax Raymond is a name that drew some interest when the Steelers brought him in last year. Unfortunately, none of us ever got to see him at all. He suffered an injury during training camp last year, which was closed to the public. Pittsburgh waived him with an injury. The team then reached an injury settlement with him after he went unclaimed off waivers.
It is my belief that the injury settlement is the reason that Raymond (as well as wide receiver Anthony Johnson) was not able to participate in last week’s rookie minicamp, two players we projected would be in attendance but were not.
When teams reach an injury settlement with a player, it is a compromise in which the parties reach an estimated length of recovery time their injury would require, and pay that player the equivalent amount. I suspect that this process results in players earning credits for games on the roster, and resulted in Raymond acquiring a credited season (at least three games credited in a single season), which precludes first-year players from participating in rookie minicamp.
Of course, missing a rookie minicamp a player who has already been through is not going to be detrimental to his efforts to make the team this year. The reality is that he has some competition, including two players who have spent some time on the Steelers’ 53-man roster already in Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader.
Gentry was a fifth-round pick in 2019, but has hardly dressed since then, and admittedly is probably on a very short leash now if he doesn’t show meaningful development this offseason. Rader was on the practice squad most of last season but was called up after Gentry was hurt. He played well on special teams, while also possessing the coveted ability to Actually Block People™, which Pittsburgh values. There is only room for one more tight end, so Raymond has his work cut out for him, even if the competition is not a murderer’s row.