‘Everything’s a competition’: Ticats’ Orlondo Steinauer won’t guarantee starting job for Simoni Lawrence

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Simoni Lawrence has been in a fixture in the starting lineup for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the past decade but head coach Orlondo Steinauer isn’t willing to guarantee him a starting spot heading into the 2023 season.

“Everything’s a competition. There’s a competition across the board, that’s what we do. We create that in our practices, we create it in the meeting rooms, we create it amongst the team in all different facets,” Steinauer told 3DownNation. “Everything’s being evaluated.”

Lawrence dressed for a career-low nine regular season games last season due to groin and knee injuries. He made 41 defensive tackles, the fewest of his long tenure in Hamilton, and didn’t make any plays in the form of an interception, sack or forced fumble.

The 34-year-old has the full confidence of his bench boss, who knows that Lawrence is working hard to get back on the field and make an impact in 2023.

“There’s no doubt, he’s one of the most fierce competitors that I’ve ever been around, that I’ve coached,” said Steinauer. “He loves football, he’s passionate about it. He was injured last year quite a bit. I know he’s hungry and so I’m excited to see him come in and try to regain some form and be the best version of himself this year.”

The three-time East Division Most Outstanding Defensive Player has been in Hamilton since 2013 when he was acquired via trade from Edmonton. The six-foot-one, 231-pound LB has since become the club’s all-time leader in defensive tackles, surpassing the previous record held by longtime linebacker and safety Rob Hitchcock.

Lawrence took a $55,000 pay cut to return to Hamilton this year, $95,000 in hard money versus $150,000 in 2022 plus he has $5,000 available in playtime bonuses. The Ticats will play host to the Grey Cup for the second time in three years. The star linebacker has yet to win a CFL title and Steinauer believes coming up short at home in 2021 could help the team navigate the upcoming season more effectively amid a 23-year Grey Cup drought — the longest in the three-down league.

“For those players that were there and the coaches that were on the staff, that’s an experience that they’ve been through, it won’t be the first time. But we’re just going to take it day by day. The goal every year is to win the Grey Cup no matter where it is. We’re well aware of where it’s at and the last time we won and all those type of things. We don’t dodge those (questions) but we don’t focus on that.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.