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Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea looks on from the bench during a game against the Calgary Stampeders in Winnipeg on Oct. 26, 2018.John Woods/The Canadian Press

They’ve been teammates and coached together. On Friday night, Mike O’Shea and Orlondo Steinauer square off for the first time as rival CFL head coaches.

The league’s top two teams will meet at Tim Hortons Field when Winnipeg (5-0) visits Hamilton (4-1). O’Shea, a 48-year-old native of North Bay, is in his sixth season as the Blue Bombers head coach, while Steinauer, a 46-year-old from Seattle, is in his first with the Tiger-Cats.

The two played together with Toronto (2001-08) – O’Shea a hard-nosed middle linebacker and Steinauer a versatile performer in the secondary. In 2000, Hamilton acquired O’Shea from the Argonauts for a package that included Canadian running back Eric Lapointe and the rights to Steinauer. O’Shea returned to Toronto the next year.

O’Shea and Steinauer entered the coaching ranks together with the Argos – O’Shea as special-teams co-ordinator (2010-13) and Steinauer a defensive backs coach and defensive co-ordinator (2010-12).

O’Shea became Winnipeg’s head coach in 2014. Steinauer went to Hamilton as defensive co-ordinator (2013-16), then spent one season as Fresno State’s defensive co-ordinator (2017) before rejoining the Ticats (2018) as assistant head coach under head coach June Jones.

Steinauer was promoted to head coach prior to this season.

O’Shea had a decorated CFL career, being named the league’s top rookie in 1993 and outstanding Canadian six years later. He won three Grey Cups with Toronto (1996, ‘97, 2004) and retired as the only Canadian player ever to register 1,000 career tackles.

O’Shea was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Steinauer was a five-time CFL all-star as a player. He won two Grey Cups (1999 with Hamilton, 2004 with Toronto) and retired ranked second over all in all-time interception return yards (1,178).

Steinauer and O’Shea won a Grey Cup as players with Toronto in 2004, then again as Argos assistant coaches in 2012. Steinauer said he can see many of the traits O’Shea displayed as a player with the current Bombers squad.

“I’m seeing a Winnipeg team that’s taking on his identity and mindset,” Steinauer said during a conference call Tuesday. “Took some timing, but with some better talent and some different buy-in and some more experience, I think that’s the reflection of what you’re seeing in Winnipeg currently.”

However, Steinauer said what O’Shea brings to a team isn’t measured by mere statistics.

“The one thing that doesn’t show up on the game film, on a three-hour Saturday, is the commitment to his preparation in the off-season,” he said. “The time spent in the training room, not necessarily when he’s injured, but just to be the best he can be to prolong his career.

“The pain he played through, the preparation that he did, just being the consummate teammate, keeping things loose, but also demanding the best out of people; it’s one of those things that you can’t coach into somebody, in my opinion. I was around him for 12 years … and he is just one of those special players.”

In typical modest fashion, O’Shea decided he had heard enough.

“Time’s up,” he said.

“I told you, he wouldn’t like it,” Steinauer quipped.

But O’Shea was quick to heap lavish praise on his former teammate.

“Obviously, playing in front of Steiny, he was the smartest guy on the field all the time,” O’Shea said. “He had an ability to relate to all the guys on the field and find a way to get them to do what we needed them to do and perform … could just do it all.

“As a teammate, couldn’t ask for a better guy to watch film at one in the morning or six in the morning with, because you knew you were going to get something accomplished and you were going to grow as a person.”

Both teams are achieving plenty under their head coaches.

Hamilton leads the CFL in points for (37.4 a game) and average yards a play (7.1) and is tied with Winnipeg for most offensive points (31.4) and touchdowns (21). The Bombers are tops in offensive touchdowns (19, three more than the second-place Ticats), passing touchdowns (13, again three more than the second-place Ticats) and second over all in average yards a play (6.9).

Winnipeg’s defence is stingy, leading the league in opposition rushing yards (59.2 yards a game), points allowed (16), offensive points (13.2), fewest offensive touchdowns (four) and rushing touchdowns (none). The Bombers are tied with Calgary for most turnovers forced (17) and second in interceptions (eight).

Winnipeg linebacker Adam Bighill, the CFL’s top defensive player last year, is expected back Friday. He missed three games owing to injury.

Hamilton’s defence isn’t shabby either, ranked first in fewest TD passes allowed (two, two more than second-place Winnipeg) and second in points (20) and offensive points (18.4). But the Ticats will be without linebacker Simoni Lawrence, their leading tackler, owing to suspension.

Hamilton boasts two explosive returners in Brandon Banks and Frankie Williams while Winnipeg can counter with Lucky Whitehead. The Ticats are 3-0 at home and come off the bye, while the Bombers are 2-0 on the road.

Pick: Winnipeg

Calgary Stampeders vs. Ottawa Redblacks (Thursday night)

At Ottawa, Jonathon Jennings starts again for the Redblacks (2-3), which have dropped three straight. Jennings threw for 45 yards with a pick in last week’s 31-1 loss to Winnipeg. Calgary (3-2) comes off a 26-16 win over Toronto. Linebacker Cory Greenwood had an interception, forced fumble and fumble return while Tre Roberson had a fumble return TD.

Pick: Calgary

Toronto Argonauts vs. Edmonton Eskimos (Thursday night)

At Edmonton, running back C.J. Gable, the CFL’s second-leading rusher, won’t play for the Eskimos (3-2). But the offence still boasts the league’s top passing attack (326.6 yards a game) while the defence has a league-best 19 sacks. Toronto (0-5) completes a three-game road trip having committed a league-high 21 turnovers.

Pick: Edmonton

Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. BC Lions (Saturday night)

At Vancouver, the Lions (1-5) look to avenge last week’s 38-25 loss in Regina. Mike Reilly threw for 346 yards and a TD while scoring another, but B.C. has allowed a league-high 21 sacks. Charleston Hughes got to Reilly three times for Saskatchewan (2-3). Something has to give as the Riders are 0-2 on the road while the Leos are 0-2 at home.

Pick: Saskatchewan

Last week: 3-1

Over all: 15-8

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