Bears confident in Steltz, Merriweather

 
 
Updated 9/23/2011 7:47 PM
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  • New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles (43) scores a touchdown past Chicago Bears defensive back Craig Steltz (20) during the fourth quarter an NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011.

    New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles (43) scores a touchdown past Chicago Bears defensive back Craig Steltz (20) during the fourth quarter an NFL football game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011.

  • JOHN STARKS/jstarks@dailyherald.comIf Craig Steltz is forced to start at strong safety Sunday against the Packers, his teammates have faith he'll do the job. "We have a lot of confidence in Craig Steltz coming in and playing," said linebacker Lance Briggs.

    JOHN STARKS/jstarks@dailyherald.comIf Craig Steltz is forced to start at strong safety Sunday against the Packers, his teammates have faith he'll do the job. "We have a lot of confidence in Craig Steltz coming in and playing," said linebacker Lance Briggs.

Safeties Major Wright (head/neck) and Chris Harris (hamstring) are both listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Packers at Soldier Field.

Harris participated in his first full practice since the week before the season opener, while Wright was limited. Both could be given another week to recover, which would result in the Bears starting their third different safety tandem.

The logical pairing would have Brandon Meriweather making his second straight start at free safety and Craig Steltz at strong safety, with rookies Chris Conte and Winston Venable the only other healthy safeties on the roster. Linebacker Lance Briggs hinted earlier in the week that Steltz would be the starter.

"At the safety position, we're kind of getting used to it now where we know that it's one guy here, another guy tomorrow," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "We have a lot of confidence in Craig Steltz coming in to play. And Brandon Meriweather; we didn't pay him good money to come in and sit the bench. He was a proven playmaker in New England, and he's going to continue to do so here.

"So between those guys, and whoever gets back there and plays, even if it's Winston Venable, I know one thing that Winston's going to do. He's going to hit somebody. So we're confident in the guys we have back there."

Steltz and Conte both saw extensive playing time against the Saints, and each had 4 tackles, but both were part of a secondary that was victimized for 3 TD passes by Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

It would be Steltz's first start since 2009, when the four-year veteran got his only two NFL starts.

"You have to perform each week like you're the starter because you never know when you're going to get thrown in the middle of a game at the beginning of a game or whenever," he said. "You have to continue to build trust in your teammates, so they trust when you get out there, that you'll make the play."

Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood:

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is off to a hot start with 620 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 126.4 passer rating.

"He's got everything," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He knows what coverage you're in. He knows when to run the ball, when to throw the ball, and he knows where to go with it.

"He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, especially this year. He's just smart. He's got everything you want in a quarterback. The thing is he doesn't get pressured a whole lot, either. They protect him really well, and when you blitz him they make you pay for it."

Rodgers has been sacked three times this season, and he was sacked 31 times last season, when Jay Cutler was sacked an NFL-high 52 times.

"He's playing lights-out football," linebacker Lance Briggs said of Rodgers. "He's getting the ball to everyone that he needs to get it to, and he's doing it without any interceptions and without many incompletions."

He's getting better:

Packers Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson turns 35 next week, but there has been no noticeable slippage in his play. Last week he intercepted Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton twice, the sixth time in his career he's had a 2-interception game.

"Is he still playing?" Bears wide receiver Roy Williams joked. "He's one of the greatest DBs in the game, a future Hall of Famer and one of the best in the game still to this day, however old he is. You have to account for him. We most definitely know where he is. That doesn't mean we go away from him, but he's good. He's the best of the best."

Injury report:

Offensive tackle Gabe Carimi (knee) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (chest) will not play Sunday.

In addition to safeties Chris Harris and Major Wright, running back Marion Barber (calf), guard Lance Louis (ankle) and wide receiver Roy Williams (groin) are all questionable.

For the Packers, safety Nick Collins, linebacker Frank Zombo and defensive end Mike Neal are out. Their other injured players are all probable.

Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @Bob LeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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