The CFL’s two best teams showdown in Steeltown Friday night.
Winnipeg enters Tim Hortons field undefeated led by Mike O’Shea. The Ticats are off to their best start since 1998 at 4-1 with Orlondo Steinauer guiding Hamilton in his rookie season as a bench boss. It’s the first meeting between the two longtime teammates turned head coaches.
“We appreciate each other, we see the game the same way, for the most part. And we’ve got a lot of good experiences together,” O’Shea said.
“When we played I think we were both were cut from the same cloth,” Steinauer said.
The two men played nine seasons together, one in Hamilton and eight down the QEW in Toronto. O’Shea and Steinauer were leaders on the double blue defence in 2004 when the Argos won the Grey Cup.
“Anytime you win a championship and you’re etched in history, we’re champions for life together,” Steinauer said.
The North Bay, Ontario native was a fierce middle linebacker and Steinauer lined up directly behind him in safety. Each could be considered among the best ever to suit up in Canada at their positions. Trust formed quickly between the all-star calibre defenders.
“Just how good you felt knowing he was behind ya because it was all going to be right. It was going to be made to be right no matter how imperfect the play might have started he was going to get it right back there. You had this safety net behind you with his guys he always had them doing the right thing,” O’Shea said.
“Osh didn’t put up with anything on the field, I’ll tell you that. He’s going to handle his business, if you wanted to try him you could try him and that’s really how he played the game. He didn’t back down from anything. That was a fun quality to have in a teammate for all those years together,” Steinauer said.
When the pair were breaking dow film together as players they would exchange casual banter about their ideas for coaching in the future. Early mornings, late nights grinding tape making sure the preparation was on point, both men approached the game of football in similar ways.
“Steiny was always a coach any way. I don’t think it was a matter of talking about coaching, he was already coaching,” O’Shea said.
“I just always looked at Osh as a coach,” Steinauer said.
Each on field career finished in 2008 and coaching started the same year in 2010 on the same Argonauts staff. O’Shea and Steinauer were part of the Toronto team who captured the CFL title in 2012. There have been plenty of memories such as those to reminisce over during the time spent together.
“When you’re sitting down and I have a beer with Osh we’re laughing,” Steinauer said.
That championship helped O’Shea earn the Blue Bombers head coaching job. Steinauer began his rise as a coordinator in Hamilton, putting together stingy units as the Ticats made two straight Grey Cup appearances in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
“I actually pictured us coaching together, which happened. Going against each other never really crossed my mind until he took the path to go to Winnipeg,” Steinauer said.
The Ticats bench boss admitted it is special to match wits as head coaches for with his good buddy, but once the whistle blows the competitive juices will take over.
“That’s enough good stuff about Osh,” Steinauer said with a chuckle.
“We’ll talk before the game and wish each other well,” O’Shea said, “and then we’ll let our guys go at it.”