Eager student

Bears safety Steltz is learning from new coach Hoke

August 6, 2009, 10:50 AM

By: Jeff Dickerson

Craig Steltz

Bob Levey/Icon SMI

Craig Steltz is more comfortable in his second season.

We've devoted plenty of air time and space detailing the impact of Rod Marinelli, so let's shift our focus to the defensive backfield.

New secondary coach Jon Hoke brought along a reputation of being a passionate teacher of the game who sometimes was grating on his players while in Houston. But Hoke's aggressive style seems appropriate in Chicago, considering the Bears ranked near the bottom of the league in pass defense last season -- not entirely the fault of the secondary, of course.

You get a sense from players, that Hoke is big on technique, reading keys, and other nuances of the game.

"He focuses on the most basic thing, which is transition, you know, and that's helped us out getting closer to balls," said safety Craig Steltz. "Playing a zone defense, you must have a great transition to break on the ball. In drills he makes us work on that, and it really helps out."

Steltz may prove to be an interesting case study.

Although Danieal Manning is officially the starting free safety, Steltz is projected to have a major role in 2009. He's currently the free safety in the nickel package. That's interesting, because the former LSU standout has always been viewed as a better fit in the box. It'll be fascinating to see if Hoke can find a way to refine Steltz's coverage skills. It's not like Steltz is some slouch -- he sounds eager to learn, but also more confident with an NFL season under his belt.

"Besides coaches, just as a rookie you come in and you don't know what to expect with a new city and new school over here," said Steltz. "You're always kind of watching your back, so you feel a little more comfortable as a second year guy. But you still want to do some of the same things, be seen and not heard."

A refreshing approach from a player with a lot to prove.

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