BOURBONNAIS -- For now, veteran strong safety Craig Steltz is paired with rookie free safety Brandon Hardin on the second team. But based on Steltz's training camp performance, it's difficult to argue that he shouldn't be pushing Major Wright for the starting job.
"Craig's always involved in the mix," defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said of the fifth-year player from LSU. "He's a guy who's always going to be in the hunt because he's so consistent day-in, day-out. He does his job. He's got very good instincts for the position."
Already this week, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Steltz has a 2-interception day and stood out in a rare defensive back vs. running back, 1-on-1 pass rush drill, where he flashed interesting blitz ability.
"You can't get anybody any more solid," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "You can count on the guy. He's going to be in position, he knows what to do, and he's really an excellent tackler and good ball skills. Just a heck of a player to have on our football team."
Lost amid the morass that was the offense in the preseason opener was some unimpressive defensive play of backups in the secondary.
That group includes three draft picks, cornerbacks Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy, and safety Brandon Hardin. None of them appeared ready for prime time.
"That was the first time for them, so it was a little bit of an eye-opener for them," defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said. "They didn't play as physical as they would have liked to and didn't make as many plays.
"Our young guys have a long way to go. After the game we were disappointed. They were disappointed in the way they played. The older guys, for the limited time they got, they did their job for the most part. We've got a lot of work to do, but I think we're making progress every day."
Filling the void:
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli admits his group will miss Brian Urlacher for however long he's out.
"He's a Hall of Fame player. What else is there to say?" Marinelli said. "He's got a presence to him, no question about it. The leadership is special. But we'll work with the guys we have right now."
Marinelli downplays the difficulty factor of Urlacher fill-in Nick Roach making the transition from the strong side to middle linebacker.
"There's not a transition because he's great in space, he understands, he's smart, he's good tackler, and he's a very good linebacker," Marinelli said. "You could put him at all three spots and he's going to be very good."
Sitting it out:
Lance Briggs (day off) joined fellow linebackers Brian Urlacher (knee) and Dom DeCicco on the sidelines Tuesday. Guard Chilo Rachal, defensive tackle Stephen Paea (ankle) and defensive tackle DeMario Pressley remain out.