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Decisiveness Pays Off: Bears Sign 4th Round Safety

Bears Important Decision To Get Steltz Locked In Early May Result In Good Play Sooner Rather Than Later In ’08 While The Move Likely Indicates The Team’s Major Need For Him In The Uncertain, Injury-Prone Secondary. The Move Should Also Prove To Be A Key Factor In His Progress At The Team’s Most Shaky Position Where They See Him As An Immediate Impact Contributor On Both Defense & Special Teams

Help Is On The Way – Bears Seek Stability With Steltz At Safety: The Bears agreed to terms with their fourth-round draft selection Craig Steltz (120th overall), a hard-hitting safety from LSU, to a four-year contract. He was rewarded with a $445,907 signing bonus and the deal could be worth close to $3 million with incentives. Steltz will have a base salary of $295,000 this season, $385,000 in 2009, and $475,000 in 2010. “I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Steltz said. “It’s crazy that this day already came. It’s the day you’ve really worked for your whole life—to have the opportunity to step on the field and play professional football—so it’s pretty cool.” Steltz, a smart defensive back who has a nose for the ball and a knack for making the big play, was tough as nails during his senior year, while playing through a hairline fracture of his scapula (shoulder blade) in the national championship game against Ohio State last January.

Versatility Sets Him Apart – See Steltz Play Free, See Steltz Play Strong: The savvy LSU standout, who is known for his cool, calm and collective poise, brings to the Bears more so his strengths (instincts/toughness/reliability) than his weaknesses (ideal speed/lack of quickness & fluidity in coverage), as he presents to the secondary a viable option, a candidate to be a possible starter in ’08 and for years to come. Steltz started all 14 games last season, piling up 101 tackles, seven pass breakups and six interceptions. After suiting up with the second team at both safety spots during the Bears’ minicamp over the weekend, Steltz is confident with the improvement he has seen stemming from the reps he has taken. He said he it doesn’t matter if he plays either strong or free safety, as he holds no clear-cut favorite, while getting extensive time at both spots during his time at Louisiana State. 

Strong Safety Spot Up For Grabs:  With Danieal Manning now converting over to the nickelback position (so long, Ricky Manning Jr.), it looks like Steltz will get some playing time early and often for the Windy City Soldiers.  As a fan of the Monsters of the Midway you should know Steltz has a legitimate chance to become the starting strong safety next to Mike Brown at FS, as it shouldn’t take long for Brandon McGowan, the projected strong safety, to make his usual mental mistakes – whether it be wrapping the ballcarrier in the open field or missing an assignment in coverage.  Steltz has a shot to get the most play out of any rookie on the team besides Chris Williams because he is the most NFL-ready out of the bunch and I believe he has the knowledge/smarts needed to succeed and start next to Mike Brown.  The question everyone will ask – is he fast/quick enough to roam the field as a coverage man in the Cover 2 defense.  Look for the Bears to rotate Steltz and Kevin Payne at strong safety (McGowan, too inconsistent/unreliable) and expect both to excel due to their reckless pursuit to the ballcarrier and their knack for the pigskin. 

“It’s about getting better every day,” he said. “That’s what you come out here to do, whether it’s techniques or schemes you’re learning that are a little different from college. It’s coming out here every day and just improving every day.

“You always talk about getting one percent better and focusing on one thing and by the end of camp and summer workouts you’ve combined all those things to become a better player.”

Five Bears draft choices are still unsigned: First-round offensive tackle Chris Williams, second-round running back Matt Forte, third-round receiver Earl Bennett, third-round defensive tackle Marcus Harrison and fifth-round cornerback Zackary Bowman.

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