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Steltz helps defense bounce back

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 12, 2012 – 7:12 pm

After getting torched by big receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in a red-zone drill Saturday, the Bears defense gained some revenge Sunday, recording five interceptions.

Safety Craig Steltz picked off two passes, while cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman and safety Major Wright had one interception apiece.

“Defensively, we’ve had some guys really step up,” said coach Lovie Smith. “A guy who’s having a great camp is Tim Jennings, making plays, really getting confidence in his play. And Craig Steltz. He’s been around here a long time. All he does is continue to show up and play his role.”

Steltz’s interceptions both came against backup quarterback Jason Campbell. The versatile fifth-year pro picked off one of the passes by stepping in front of a receiver in the corner of the end zone. Throughout training camp, Steltz has continued to demonstrate why he’s one of the Bears’ most valuable players.

“He’s a great special teams player,” Smith said. “When you’re a backup safety you need to be a core four-phase special teams player. He does that, but we would be comfortable playing him at the free or strong position. He’s a coach on the field, all of those things, a valuable part of our team.”

Steltz also excelled during a spirited one-on-one blocking drill that pitted blitzing defensive backs against running backs. It was the first time the Bears have conducted that drill in this year’s training camp. After beating a blocking back on multiple occasions, Steltz celebrated with his fellow defensive backs.

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McClellin working with No. 1 defense

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 12, 2012 – 6:11 pm

After a stellar performance in Thursday night’s preseason opener, Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin worked predominantly with the No. 1 defense in Sunday’s practice.

The first-round draft pick from Boise State recorded three tackles, one sack, one tackle-for-loss and two quarterback hits in the Bears’ 31-3 loss to the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field.

“I was impressed with him in the game,” said coach Lovie Smith. “I’ve been impressed with him throughout camp. He came in, he had a lot to learn, and he’s doing that. He’s getting a lot of reps.

“He did play well in the game. Once you get in the game, your first action and you see that, ‘Hey, I can play this game,’ it does give you a lot of confidence. He’s a guy with confidence right now. We like him. We are getting him more reps with our [starters]. He’s going to help us win games this year.”

Although some members of the media have reported that McClellin struggled at times early in training camp, his coach has been happy with how the 6-3, 260-pounder has performed.

“You guys have been picking on him,” Smith said to a reporter. “I think he’s a great practice player. We’ve been pleased with what he’s done in the classroom and on the practice field. He’s right where a young defensive lineman should be. He comes to work the same way each day.”

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Paea sidelined with sprained ankle

Posted by Larry Mayer on August 12, 2012 – 5:10 pm

Wearing a walking boot on his left leg, Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea sat out Sunday’s practice with a sprained ankle he sustained during Saturday’s workout.

“It is what it is,” said the 2011 second-round draft pick from Oregon State. “It’s football. You get hurt and you just have to stay on top of it and come back.”

Having recovered from offseason knee surgery, Paea had been having an excellent training camp, supplanting veteran Matt Toeaina as the starting nose tackle.

“It’s competition every day,” Paea said. “As far as I see it, I’ve got to come back and I’ve got to compete for it again. It [stinks] to go back and start over again, but we’ll see.”

According to coach Lovie Smith, Paea’s injury won’t hurt his chances of starting this season.

“He’s out right now with that ankle sprain, but as far as a setback, no, we’ve seen enough,” Smith said. “We like what he did at the end of the season last year. He’s a good football player. Eventually we’ll get him back out there and he’s going to play good ball for us this year.”

Inactive the first five games of his rookie season in 2011, Paea recorded a safety on his second NFL snap when he sacked Donovan McNabb in the end zone in a win over the Vikings. Paea finished his first season with 18 tackles, two sacks and two tackles-for-loss.

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