This offseason, Omar Khan and Andy Weidl cleared house at the inside linebacker position by letting Devin Bush walk in free agency and cutting Myles Jack. Chapelle Russell joins Mark Robinson in 2023 as the two remaining inside linebackers from the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers roster.
The Steelers went out and retooled the position group in the offseason by signing Elandon Roberts, Cole Holcomb, Tanner Muse, and Nick Kwiatkoski. Roberts and Holcomb are the penciled-in starters for the 2023 season, but the competition behind them will be a fierce one in training camp and the preseason.
While Kwiatkoski has the most experience among the three others, Muse has been a special team unit in his career to this point. That is not to say Kwiatkoski has not played special teams because that is all he did in Atlanta but Muse was clearly signed to be a special teams ace. As for Russell, he played over 70% of the Jaguars’ special teams snaps in 2021.
The benefit for Russell is that he is slightly more experienced playing linebacker in the NFL than Muse is. Russell has logged 95 defensive snaps from 2020 to 2021 while Muse has 80 career defensive snaps. Muse’s 425 special teams snaps top Russell’s 407 special teams snaps. Muse and Russell have experienced eerily similar careers to this point and it is likely only one of the two make the final 53-man roster.
Additionally, Russell was one of Khan’s first additions to the practice squad after reforming the roster last year. The fact that he made it through the entire season and earned a reserve/future contract with the Steelers afterward shows that the team sees something in the Temple product.
While the need for help on special teams is apparent with all of the departures that happened this offseason, the chances of all three making the final roster are slim to none. Russell will have to show out over the rest of the offseason to win a spot on the Steelers’ final 53-man roster.
Due to Kwiatkoski’s overarching experience, he is the most likely to make the team in 2023 but that is not to say Russell does not have a chance to impress enough to snatch a role too. If all else fails, it is a possibility that the Steelers decide to keep Russell on the practice squad once again in 2023.
49 • Chapelle Russell, Inside Linebacker, Temple
6-foot-1, 230 pounds, 26 years old, 4th Season
Acquired: The Steelers signed Russell to their practice squad on Sept. 1, 2022, after he was waived by the Jaguars during final roster cuts.
Last season: After being on the Jaguars’ active roster for 16 games in 2021, he was waived prior to the 2022 season. The Steelers signed Russell to the practice squad in September. He stayed on the team’s practice squad for the rest of the season.
For the first time in his three years as a professional, Russell failed to be activated for any of the team’s games.
Career: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Russell out of Temple with the 241st overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Russell dressed for 11 games for the Bucs but failed to record any official stats. He recorded four defensive snaps in Tampa Bay. Prior to the team’s playoff run that ended with a Super Bowl victory, the Bucs waived Russell.
Prior to the 2021 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed Russell off of waivers. He appeared in 16 games for the Jaguars and made one start as a second-year player. On 94 defensive snaps and 298 special team snaps, Russell notched a career-high 15 combined tackles. His 298 special team snaps accounted for 72% of all of the Jaguars’ special teams snaps. Pro Football Focus gave Russell the highest grade (50.4) of his three-year career in 2021.
|Year||Team||GP||Tackles||Sacks||FFs||INTs||DEF Snaps||PFF Grade|
College: Russell was a part of Temple’s 2015 recruiting class after a successful career at Lakewood High School. In 2015, Russell was on the opening two-deep depth chart but ended up redshirting in his first year as an Owl.
In 2016, Russell appeared in 10 games for the Owls and recorded 25 total tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and one forced fumble. A torn ACL suffered in practice ended Russell’s redshirt freshman season earlier than expected.
As a redshirt sophomore, Russell returned from injury and appeared in nine games for the Owls in 2017. He logged 70 combined tackles, half of a sack, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a career-high two forced fumbles. A second ACL tear ended his season once again. At the time of his injury, Russell was leading the team in tackles and still managed to finish fourth on the team.
In 2018, Russell was awarded a single-digit number which Temple gives to their “toughest” players each season. He finished the season with 70 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and five tackles for loss. His 70 tackles ranked fourth on the team and his five fumble recoveries led the entire FBS in 2018.
As a redshirt senior, Russell played in all 13 of the Owls’ games for the second consecutive season. He finished the season with career-highs in total tackles with 72 and tackles for loss with nine.
Over his five years at Temple, Russell amassed 45 appearances and tallied 237 combined tackles, three sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles.
Salary cap and future: After Russell re-signed with the Steelers on a reserve/future contract this offseason, his current deal runs until the end of the 2023 season. He will cost $940,000 against the Steelers’ cap space this season if he makes the final roster.
The Steelers can waive Russell while not incurring any dead money for the 2023 season if they chose to do so.
The rest of the 90: