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Ticats' Steinauer being mentioned as one of CFL's top head-coaching prospects

11/27/2014 02:15 EST | Updated 01/27/2015 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - It hasn't taken Orlondo Steinauer long to get noticed in the CFL.

Despite being in just his second year as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' defensive co-ordinator, Steinauer is already regarded as one of the CFL's top head-coaching candidates. His name has been mentioned prominently here this week regarding the B.C. Lions' vacancy.

B.C. fired head coach Mike Benevides following its 50-17 East Division semifinal playoff loss to the Montreal Alouettes on Nov. 16. Steinauer, a 41-year-old Seattle native, reiterated Thursday he'd like to become a CFL head coach one day but said emphatically his focus is solely on facing the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup game Sunday at B.C. Place Stadium.

"I'm not even here to talk about that stuff," he said. "If you want to know if I've been approached by anybody or had contact? Zero."

The Ticats, under head coach Kent Austin, finished atop the East Division with a 9-9 record and are making their second straight Grey Cup appearance. Hamilton lost last year's game 45-23 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium.

This year's game is a neutral-site affair but Calgary was the class of the CFL, posting an 8-1 road record and 15-3 overall mark, both league bests.

Calgary's offence averaged a league-high 144 yards rushing per game while running back Jon Cornish ran for a CFL-high 1,082 yards despite playing in just nine contests.

But Calgary is hardly a one-dimensional offence. First-year starter Bo Levi Mitchell completed over 60 per cent of his passes for over 3,300 yards with 22 TDs and just eight interceptions.

Mitchell had four TD passes last weekend in Calgary's 41-18 win over Edmonton in the West Division final. Hamilton was the CFL's top defence against the run (76.8 yards per game) but a distant eighth versus the pass (260.4 yards per game).

"They're well prepared and have an identity," Steinauer said. "Everyone wants to label them as a team that runs the football, however they showed you the last game if you pack the box they will throw it deep.

"If you're going to play press man and bring pressure they're going to have an answer. That's makes them tough and is why they've won 29 games the last two years. But we're here for a reason too, we can play football a little bit also and I'm looking forward to seeing how we respond because you always want to play the best."

The five-foot-11, 182-pound Steinauer played 12 seasons as a defensive back in the CFL with Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto. A five-time league all-star, Steinauer won two Grey Cups ('99 with the Ticats, '04 with the Argos).

Steinauer began his CFL coaching career as a defensive backs coach with Toronto in 2010 before being named the defensive co-ordinator the following year after Chip Garber was fired. In 2011, he returned as defensive backs coach under new head coach Scott Milanovich and helped the Argos win the 100th Grey Cup in 2012 before being named Hamilton's defensive co-ordinator.

It's easy to see why Steinauer is being mentioned so favourably as a future head coach. Not only is he regarded as a student of the game but Steinauer is always personable and pleasant to deal with and offers insightful, genuine answers to questions.

"First of all, Orlondo is an outstanding person and the reason I start there is typically outstanding people really care about their job and the opportunity they've been given," Ticats head coach/GM Kent Austin said. "They also understand the value of that opportunity and will take advantage of it in the proper way.

"Orlondo is very bright and organized and an extremely hard worker. He's endearing to his coaching staff and players yet he keeps them accountable. He has the right balance between grace and accountability all the way down to the individual player because it's different for each guy and you need to know that as a coach."

The harsh reality for head football coaches is the more successful they are, the higher the risk of losing their top assistants. But Austin said that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"It means we're doing something right and we hired the right guys," Austin said. "Our philosophy is to get the best coaches we can and then empower them to grow.

"I've let Orlondo go through mistakes and grow as a coach as I have all the coaches because they can't get better if you're micro-managing them. If you believe in your coaches and believe you have the right guys, then trust them."

Steinauer said being a former player has helped him transition into being a coach.

"I've sat in their seat, I know when a coach is giving you the real talk and things that are cliche," he said. "I understand when they need breaks a little bit better . . . when it's time to give them time off.

"Like I tell the men, I don't have 30 years of coaching experience, I'm not (Calgary defensive co-ordinator Rich) Stubler, I'm not one of those guys who has coached forever. But they can't bring what I bring, they don't have 12 years of experience of understanding how things were managed the other way so that's why it was important to me to surround myself with great assistant coaches like Jeff Reinebold (linebackers coach/special-teams co-ordinator) and Dennis McPhee (defensive line coach) . . . you must have a good mix of experience and youth in the coaching staff."

The Grey Cup game will pit master against pupil as Steinauer played for Stubler from 2003-08 in Toronto. Stubler, 65, is a 40-plus year coaching veteran who has worked at the high school, NCAA, Arena League and CFL levels over his illustrious career.

"He has withstood the test of time because he understands the game and has a philosophy he believes in," Steinauer said. "I got to play for Rich and watch how he pieced that together and be a part of it . . . but I'm a product of all the guys I've played under."

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