Lions Part Ways With Highly Touted Rookie LB Weeks After Signing Him

Steele Chambers

Getty Steele Chambers looks on during an Ohio State game.

Rookie linebacker Steele Chambers was once seen as a strong candidate to make the final 53-man roster with the Detroit Lions, but now will have to find a new team to continue his NFL journey.

The Lions announced on June 10 that they parted ways with the former Ohio State star, who led his college team in tackles last season. Though Chambers went undrafted, he was identified as the most likely undrafted free agent to make the final roster in Detroit before his release this week.

Ohio State Linebacker Called ‘A Fit’ for Detroit

Chambers had a strong five-year career at Ohio State, converting to linebacker from running back and leading the team with 83 total tackles in 13 games last year. He added 1.5 tackles for a loss, an interception, and a pass breakup, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference honors.

The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy noted after his signing that Chambers could have a strong chance to earn a spot on the roster.

“A former running back turned linebacker, Chambers is an intriguing fit thanks to his athleticism, but his tape shows a prospect who’s still developing at the position,” Pouncy wrote. “He needs to learn to shed blockers quicker, but he has a good foundation with which to work. His best chance to stick around is probably in a special teams/practice-squad role. The Lions did lose Anthony Pittman to the Commanders this offseason, so there could be a fit there.”

Some analysts saw Chambers as a work in progress. Dane Brugler of The Athletic noted that Chambers runs well and made “noticeable improvements” with his reads, but still has some areas in need of work before he can become a consistent NFL linebacker.

“However, his lackluster take-on technique leaves him stuck on blocks, especially when he loses his run fits,” Brugler wrote. “Overall, Chambers needs to continue developing his feel for blocking schemes and cover responsibilities, but his athletic range and play personality are solid foundational traits for the next level.”

In the end, Chambers was released early in the team’s offseason practices and weeks before the start of training camp.

Veteran Linebacker Growing into Bigger Role

The Lions could lean more heavily on veteran linebacker Derrick Barnes, who turned in a career-best season in 2023 with 81 total tackles in 14 starts.

Benjamin Raven of noted that Barnes had his back against the wall last offseason after the Lions used a first-round pick on Jack Campbell and extended Alex Anzalone, but showed significant improvement in the offseason and parlayed that into a major role during the season.

Barnes said he feels the improvement, growing as a leader both on and off the field.

“It was a long journey for me. Overcame a lot of things. Now, I’m Year 4, it feels crazy,” Barnes said after the team’s June 5 practice. “Some people call me a vet. Some people say I’m still young. But, no, just the approach I have to the game, my mindset. My IQ of the game. Knowing what everyone is doing on the field.”

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