NEWS
08/12/2011 11:57 EDT | Updated 10/12/2011 05:12 EDT

Steinauer to make debut as Argos defensive co-ordinator versus Ticats

Ricky Foley doesn't pull any punches.

When asked how the Toronto Argonauts' defence has performed this season, the straight-shooting defensive end didn't hold back.

"Like crap," he said emphatically. "We're last in the league in everything and that's just not acceptable, it's not up to our standards.

"I'll defend my guys, I know we're better than we are but it is what it is, you can't say anything. Stats and the record show we're crap right now and it's gut-check time."

Toronto (1-5) looks to snap a five-game losing streak Saturday night in Hamilton against the arch-rival Tiger-Cats. The Argos will attempt to do so with Orlondo Steinauer, their new defensive co-ordinator.

Steinauer took over when Chip Garber was fired following Toronto's 36-23 home loss to Montreal last week. Steinauer, a former Argos and Ticats defensive back, was in his second season as the Double Blue's secondary coach.

Staunch defence has long been a Toronto trademark but the unit has fallen on hard times. The Argos are last in the CFL in yards allowed (407.1 per game), passing completion (72 per cent) and rushing yards (129.8 per game) and second-last in points (29.7 per game) and passing yards allowed (289.3 per game).

Montreal exposed Toronto's vulnerability against the run, rolling up 172 rushing yards, including 101 in the third quarter alone against the Argos' three-man rush. But Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo also completed 30-of-36 passes for 349 yards and a TD.

"The changes this week were subtle ones like meeting as a team now instead of individual groups," Foley said. "That builds more cohesion and you know what the guy behind you is doing and he knows what's going on in front of him.

"Guys seem to be on the same page more now.''

The contest is also a significant one for Hamilton (3-3), which is in the thick of it in the East Division behind front-running Winnipeg (5-1) and Montreal (5-2). The Ticats' offence is third overall in scoring (25.3 points per game) and quarterback Kevin Glenn has thrown twice as many TD passes (10) as interceptions (five), including six to slotback Dave Stala, who had six touchdown catches all of last season.

"Even when Chip Garber was there, to me guys like Orlondo Steinauer and Mike O'Shea seemed to have some influence in what they were doing defensively," Glenn said. "They'll probably have some stuff that is new but I don't think (Steinauer) will do anything his players aren't comfortable with."

It's certainly been a whirlwind week for Steinauer, who has also had to handle daily media inquiries regarding potential changes. However, the always gracious Steinauer has a simple solution to the Argos' defensive woes.

"We have to finish," he said. "We've had enough points, I feel like, at times and we haven't finished, we've come up short, that's the biggest difference.

"Everyone likes to ask if we're going to pressure the quarterback, are you going to sit back? It doesn't matter what we're going to do, we have to win. We're going to finish and we're going to win in whatever scheme it is, that's the focus."

Steinauer doesn't have the luxury of time to cure what ails Toronto's defence. The unit will employ many of the same schemes against Hamilton that it has all season, but Foley says with a twist.

"We have to run it with more intensity," he said. "There's a new kind of vibe, new attitude here ... but more than anything we have to come out and put a stamp on what kind of football team we're going to be the rest of the way."

And what kind of team is that?

"Hopefully, more aggressive than what we've shown," Foley said. "Not being scared to make mistakes and have confidence to try and make a play as opposed to trying (not) to get beat."

Toronto also continues to deal with injuries to its linebacking corps. Veteran Kevin Eiben underwent season-ending surgery for a torn pectoral muscle this week, joining middle linebacker Jason Pottinger (season-ending knee injury) on the sidelines.

Ejiro Kuale is playing through a hip pointer and sported a wrist cast against Montreal. Fortunately, rookie Anthony Cannon, out the last two games with a lower body injury, returns against Hamilton.

"In our world it (injuries) is a reality," Steinauer said. "Absolutely it's tough but this is professional football ... ultimately you have to press on.

"I'm going to try to put guys into positions to make plays, like any co-ordinator does. I don't have a specific A-B-C, 1-2-3 cookie cutter mould of how it's going to be. It's going to be week to week and over time you'll see what my stamp is."

Receiver Jeremaine Copeland replaces Eiben as kicker Noel Prefontaine's holder. The challenge for Copeland is getting the ball down for the left-footed Prefontaine but Argos head coach and general manager Jim Barker said Copeland had no issues with that in practice.

"He has done it before, he's natural at it," Barker said of Copeland. "(Prefontaine) was very comfortable with him so there shouldn't be any issues."

Due to scheduling issues at Rogers Centre, Toronto and Hamilton won't meet this year in their annual Labour Day game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Argos will be home to the B.C. Lions on Sept. 2 while the Ticats host the Montreal Alouettes on Sept. 5.

However, given the intensity of the long-standing Hamilton-Toronto rivalry, that won't matter Saturday.

"This rivalry is one of those that's lived through by the fans," Glenn said. "It's bragging rights between the two cities.

"I think with our two teams not playing on Labour Day that will make this game that much more important.''

Foley, for one, loves playing in a hostile environment such as Ivor Wynne Stadium.

"Hamilton and Regina are my two favourite places in the league to play," he said. "I love the fans in Hamilton, they're really into it.