Steinauer at ‘loss for words’ after Ticas second consecutive Grey Cup loss: ‘The only way these things heal is with time’

Photo courtesy: CFL

Stunned silence.

It’s what descended on Tim Hortons Field when Jeremiah Masoli’s twice-tipped pass landed in the arms of Kyrie Wilson for the Grey Cup-winning interception in overtime.

It’s also what hung in the air of the media conference room as Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer sat alone after the loss, asked if he could describe the feeling of having a game of this magnitude ripped away.

“Not really, no. I can’t really frame it,” he said shaking his head, long pauses between short sentences. “Just extreme disappointment. Extreme disappointment.”

It seemed for awhile that the Ticats were a team of destiny. Up 22-10 with 12:10 remaining, they looked poised to take home their first Grey Cup since 1999 and break the longest active championship drought in the CFL in front of a raucous hometown crowd, taking out revenge on the very same opponent who embarrassed them in the 2019 Grey Cup. Absolute serendipity.

Then it all fell apart, leaving a shell-shocked Ticats locker room reeling in the aftermath of overtime heartbreak.

“For once I was kind of at a loss for words. We all just kind of sat there, to be honest with you,” Steinauer told those assembled. “I sat on the floor and waited until every last person that was part of this organization trickled in and I just told them that the only way these things heal is with time. You can’t speed time up, you can’t slow it down.”

Steinauer had faced Grey Cup disappointment with Hamilton before, first as a coordinator and again as a head coach in 2019, but losing the big one hasn’t gotten any easier. It likely never will, and so the coach felt the need to make his post-game comments a little more personal.

“There’s no words that you can give them, except for that I was extremely proud of them. I told them all, to each individually, that I loved them and that’s from the heart,” Steinauer said. “Everybody was hugging everybody, just extreme disappointment, but I wanted them to know that other people can label or do whatever they want, but I’m extremely proud of their grit, the people they became.”

That pride stems from more than just the effort level in one game, but the real story of the 2021 Ticats will never be told. That will stay between the men sitting on that locker room floor.

“There’s so many things behind closed the doors that never make it to the media, nor should they. They rallied around each other and that’s what I told them, is that family leans on each other,” Steinauer continued. “I hope that they’ve made friends for life, because it will never be the same. Then we just kind of did whatever came natural. There was no script.”

There will be no script for the path forward either, as many suspect this Ticats team will be a vastly different one next season. Though he later refused to comment, Steinauer himself has been tied to the defensive coordinator job at the University of Washington and could be gone within weeks.

He likely wouldn’t be the only departure from the coaching staff and the future is equally uncertain for a number of veteran players. Those post-defeat heart-to-hearts may also serve as a tearful farewell to the Ticats’ Grey Cup window and any hope of breaking through the two-decade long drought.

Stunned silence seems fitting.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.