LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Recent injuries to Chris Harris (hamstring) and Major Wright (hamstring) have again put the spotlight on the Bears safety position, one of the few areas on defense head coach Lovie Smith has been unable to stabilize the past eight years. Since Smith arrived in 2004, he's used eight different starting safety combinations to open the regular season.
So far this year, five different safeties have seen the field in just two games.
"The safety position, you know, we are kind of getting used to it now, where we know it's one guy here, another guy tomorrow," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said Thursday. "I have a lot of confidence in Craig Steltz coming in to play. Brandon Meriweather, we didn't pay him good money to come in and sit the bench. He's a playmaker, a proven playmaker in New England and he's going to continue to do so here. Between those guys, and whomever gets back there and plays, even if it's (rookie) Winston Venable. I know one thing Winston is going to do, he's going to hit somebody. We're confident in that guys we have back there."
Briggs isn't the first player to throw support behind Steltz. A former 2008 fourth-round draft pick, Steltz made two starts in 2009, but has essentially been a special teams contributor the past four years. The Bears decision to insert rookie Chris Conte ahead of Steltz in the Saints game was a curious one, given Steltz's experience and overall understanding of the defense. Late in the game after Wright got injured, the Bears brought Steltz off the bench and paired him with Meriweather.
Depending on what happens this week with Harris and Wright, Steltz could be in the mix for some playing time against the Green Bay Packers.
"You want them to be able to trust you," Steltz said. "You have to keep going out there and have them continue to put their trust in you at practice. You have to continue to make plays, to be in the right place, to make the right checks. That's the stuff you hope to bring out to the field. The trust these guys have here at practice, you want that on the field.