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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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Steltz’s versatility provides a boost

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 26, 2012 – 1:11 pm

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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