Few Bears players are more versatile than safety Craig Steltz, a special teams standout who excelled on defense late last season after injuries sidelined Major Wright and Chris Conte.
“You want to be able to do whatever they ask you to do, whether that’s on defense—whatever situation they put you in—or on special teams,” Steltz said Thursday at training camp. “A lot of crazy things happen during the season and during games and being able to adapt to that helps us win.”
Inserted on defense after Wright hurt his shoulder last Dec. 4 in a loss to the Chiefs, Steltz recorded 37 tackles in the final five games, third on the Bears behind only Pro Bowl linebackers Brian Urlacher (44) and Lance Briggs (41).
Steltz forced fumbles in back-to-back games against the Chiefs and Broncos, the second coming on a sack of Tim Tebow that turned into a takeaway when defensive end Israel Idonije recovered the loose ball.
Steltz, a 2008 fourth-round draft pick, has continued to improve as he has gained NFL experience.
“You can do a ton of things in practice, but a lot of that is scripted,” Steltz said. “In the game, there are situations that you’re prepared for, but they’re unexpected. You never know what’s going to happen in the game. Just getting as much experience and getting used to situations is the biggest difference.”
Steltz ranked fourth on the Bears with 12 special teams tackles last year despite seeing little if any action on the coverage units after joining the starting lineup over the final quarter of the season.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub raves about Steltz’s emergence in that aspect of the game, something the fifth-year pro from LSU takes very seriously.
“It [requires] extremely high effort,” said Steltz, who signed a two-year contract with the Bears in March after becoming a free agent. “We take a lot of pride in it. Being able to continue to work on it has been the difference.”
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