EDMONTON — As a member of the Argonauts secondary for eight seasons, Orlondo Steinauer took hustle and an ability to get to the football in equal measures.
In his first year as defensive backs coach with the Argos, Steinauer, one of a few players in the history of the Canadian Football League to be an all-star at cornerback, defensive back and safety, is finding that patience is a valuable resource.
“We are not perfect, but we are learning,” Steinauer said. “The cliche says that you have yet to play the most perfect game, but potential-wise we are not close to where we want to be, and that excites me.”
Before their game on Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium versus the Edmonton Eskimos, tackling had been an issue for the Argos, who still managed to win three times in their first five games. Toronto defensive back Lin-J Shell led the CFL with 32 defensive tackles, but for Steinauer, that was not necessarily an indication that everything was smooth.
“Stats can be misleading but they also can be informative,” Steinauer said. “I know that’s straddling the fence, but I will stand by that.
“Montreal’s defence looks great, but they are rested. That does not mean they are not good. It means their offence is moving the ball and they are not being tested.”
Toronto’s offence was last in time of possession, with an average of 26 minutes 19 seconds a game, which meant that its defence was on the field more than any other team’s.
Steinauer and the rest of the defensive coaching staff, led by defensive co-ordinator Chip Garber, have been sparring with missed tackles, an old football bugaboo that seems to curse most teams every so often.
“We have expectations, and we have a lot of missed tackles, but when I look across the league, everybody does,” Steinauer said. “To me, it is the timing of when they happen. You don’t want to miss them in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line.”
Shell was voted the Argos’ most outstanding rookie by the Toronto chapter of the Football Reporters of Canada last year, when he started in 16 games and made 65 defensive tackles.
But Shell knows that bringing opponents down with regularity, and not missing the first time, is an area for improvement.
“I would like to say it is hustle on my behalf, as far as getting to the ball when it goes to our side,” Shell said. “Even though (a league-high in tackles) could be a plus, at the same time, as a team, we need to pick up our tackling. That overshadows everything else.”
And in a perfect world, one of the Argos’ linebackers would be the leader in tackles. After Shell, each of the next seven leaders in tackles in the CFL were linebackers. Among the group was Toronto’s Kevin Eiben, who was third with 30 tackles.
Part of what makes Steinauer a good teacher, however, is his approach to the game. The Argos needed coaches with recent playing experience, something head coach Jim Barker recognized, and Steinauer and Mike O’Shea, as special teams co-ordinator, were hired.
Steinauer is a positive-reinforcement type who the players can relate to without sacrificing a proper coach/player relationship.
“If you don’t respect the person who is your boss or leader, it’s no fun coming to work,” Steinauer said. “So I just try to be me, be the same way that I was as a player, not claim to know it all. I think I am fortunate to be around guys on the staff who have so many years of football experience.
“So far, I think it has worked out well, but we are going to be judged on wins and losses, as we should, like any staff.”