I figured Ticat fans would appreciate this article from CFL.ca:[url=http://www.cfl.ca/article/landry-steinauers-defence-far-beyond-just-a-scheme]http://www.cfl.ca/article/landry-steina ... t-a-scheme[/url]
Ask Orlondo Steinauer just what fresh hell he has unleashed on the CFL in 2015 and he'll tell you it isn't fresh at all.
It may be hell, yes. But fresh? No, sir.
“I think nothing’s really changed, to be honest," the Hamilton Ticats' defensive coordinator says, just after the team finished up a midweek practice session in preparation for Saturday night's game against the visiting BC Lions. "I just like to think that we play hard and fast and we’re a year more experienced, at least in our front seven.?
For Steinauer, in his third full season as DC, a cohesive, successful defence is about much more than schemes and execution. It's about trust and ownership. It's also about fun.
The Ticats' defence has been a maelstrom so far this season, dragging opposing offences - particularly quarterbacks - to the depths, time and time again. It's a blustery mix of blitzes and brutal hits, designed to give the opposition as little time as possible to execute its game plan. That's not exactly something new in the game of football but it does seem that this year's Hamilton defence has taken it up a notch or two from its performances over the last couple of seasons.
“Through the first third of the season we’ve done fine and that’s all that it is," Steinauer says, in the traditional coaching fashion of never resting on laurels. "Just the first third of the season.?
While it might seem that Hamilton's blitz packages have taken a leap forward in design this year, Steinauer says that is not the case. If it looks like the pressure packs are different and varied from 2014, that's just your imagination. It's the benefit of having so many returning starters that is really paying off. Starters who know exactly what Coach O wants.
“We might have added a couple of different blitzes from last year, but basically we have the same package," he explains. "I think we’ve become a better, more efficient blitzing team, (with) a better understanding of protections. But I don’t see the scheme has changed a whole bunch.?
It's important that players on the Hamilton defence have that better understanding, since they're the ones making the final call on who is going to rush the quarterback. It's a player-heavy system of play calling, one that Steinauer remembers well from his days on the field.
As a starting free safety with the Toronto Argonauts, Steinauer had many responsibilities. Along with linebacker Mike O'Shea, he was given the task of reading the opposing offence and making changes to the defensive structure on the fly. It was Defensive Coordinator Rich Stubler's way of doing things and it's something Steinauer has in place for the players he coaches now. Players like Simoni Lawrence, Craig Butler and Bryan Hall, although the decision-making is not exclusively limited to just them.
“That takes a lot of trust in your athletes and I know that’s not for everybody," Steinauer says. "But that’s how we do things.?
Steinauer, then, has faith in the veteran players on his defence. Faith that they'll do the right thing. Make the right call. He sets his ego aside, figuring there's no valuable place for it when the action heats up.
“Ultimately, I don’t have any desire to be going against the other coordinator - and then he has a better call than I have - when the players can put us in the best situation on the field," he says.
"For example, if I have a ‘cover zero’ blitz called and we don’t need to be in 'cover zero' because of something they (the offence) give us, then I’m gonna empower the player to get us out of it. I’m not gonna sacrifice the team because I made a call and I wanna be right. It’s not about me being right. It’s about the players being in the best position to make plays on that play.?
For that same reason - that it's not about him having to be right - Steinauer is not insistent that his game installations be adhered to.
“Most coaches are big on if you practiced it then you’ve gotta run it in the game. Well, I’m not from that school of thought,? he says.
That might sound a bit odd in the highly focused, highly organized world of pro football. However, for Steinauer, game prep is not entirely about the next opponent. It's about the overall picture of what can happen in a game regardless of opponent. That's what leads to his defence's unpredictable look.
“We teach concepts," he says. "So, really, anybody can basically come (on a blitz) at any time. We just kinda try to do what makes sense.?
“Even if we didn’t practice it that week, because it’s a conceptual thing, you wouldn’t have to have repped it.?
Ten different Ticats have sacks so far in 2015, with most everyone on the defence being assigned a quarterback hunting excursion. The big exception there is Courtney Stephen, who has not been sent on a sprint from his wide side cornerback position.
“We like to include the majority of the guys," Steinauer says. "I know the field corner (Stephen) is still waitin’ for his turn but I don’t know if that’s gonna come. I’m not gonna just dial one up. That’s a long way.?
Ticat players sure do look like they're having fun out there on defence. Success breeds that, especially if you feel you've had an important role to play in deciding which concepts are used at any given time. As a player, Steinauer experienced it. As a coach, he fosters it.
“Having been in that I know that the more fun you have, the closer you are, all it does is increase your chances of winning more consistently in my opinion.?
There is one more factor at play in what has become a very active and bruising defence in Hamilton and it has its part to play along with execution, ownership and fun.
“Dang it, we were short two years in a row," Steinauer says when asked about an intensity that might have its roots in losing two consecutive Grey Cup Games. "And it’s hard enough to win Eastern Division, let alone get to the game. If it shows through, then that’s a credit to the men, definitely not a credit to me."
“We’ve found a bunch of good men that are willing and they’ve bought into what we we’re selling."