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Bears’ Craig Steltz has beaten Tim Tebow before

MariBarber (left) will start Sunday but Lovie Smith said Kahlil Bell will play too. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Marion Barber (left) will start Sunday, but Lovie Smith said Kahlil Bell will play, too. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 10, 2012 8:26AM

If safety Craig Steltz starts in place of Major Wright on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, he’ll know what he’s up against.

Steltz, an All-America safety at LSU in 2007, was one of the stars of a victory that propelled the Tigers toward the national championship that season — a 28-24 thriller against Florida and Tim Tebow in Baton Rouge, La. Steltz had 16 tackles (13 of them solos) in that game.

‘‘[Tebow is] a tremendous player,’’ Steltz said. ‘‘It’s a huge task for us. We lost to them at their place my junior year. They had a lot of big plays with guys running free down the field, whether it was missed communications or not reading your keys. They were big plays. That’s a huge thing on defense: We have to stop the big plays.’’

Wright, who was teammates with Tebow at Florida, didn’t practice Thursday because of a shoulder injury he suffered Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He had six tackles when he left. Steltz replaced him and had a team-high nine tackles and
a forced fumble in the second half.

‘‘It was exciting,’’ Steltz said. ‘‘You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. You’ve got to prepare each week like you’re the starter and realize that you’re just one play away. I had the opportunity [last] week and took advantage of it.’’

Barber the starter

While Kahlil Bell can fill Matt Forte’s role as a versatile runner and receiver better, Marion Barber will start Sunday against the Broncos, coach Lovie Smith said. But Bell, who rushed for 34 yards on four carries against the Chiefs, also will play.

‘‘Between the two of them, we can get what we need,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. ‘‘[They] have different strengths. I think between the two of them we’ll be all right.’’

Injury update

Cornerback Charles Tillman (quad) and linebacker Brian Urlacher (quad) were limited in practice Thursday but are expected to start Sunday. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams (back) also was limited.

For the Broncos, wide receiver Eddie Royal (concussion) didn’t practice because the team is following league-mandated protocols on concussions. Running back Willis McGahee (knee) also didn’t practice but said he expects to play Sunday.

Linebacker Von Miller (thumb), who missed the Broncos’ game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, was limited in practice but is expected to play with a cast on his injured thumb. Left tackle Ryan Clady (knee) and reserve safety David Bruton (Achilles) also were limited in practice.

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