Not even the highest-quality steel lasts forever.
Defensive tackle Eddie Steele is calling it quits following a nine-year career in the Canadian Football League, which included four seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“Thank you Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Edmonton Eskimos, Saskatchewan Roughriders for giving a kid from Winnipeg an opportunity to live out his dream,” Steele posted to Instagram Thursday. “I had an amazing nine years in the CFL. A huge thank you to all who have helped/supported me along my journey playing the game that I love.
“This game has taught me so many valuable lessons about life and the relationships I’ve formed because of it are countless. I look forward to starting a new chapter in my life moving forward.”
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Thank you @hamiltontigercats @officialedmesks @sskroughriders for giving a kid from Winnipeg an opportunity to live out his dream. I had an amazing 9years in the @cfl A huge THANK YOU to all who have helped/supported me along my journey playing the game that I love. This game has taught me so many valuable lessons about life and the relationships I’ve formed because of it are countless. I look forward to starting a new chapter in my life moving forward ✌🏽
And you can bet Steele was the real deal, having won a Vanier Cup with his hometown University of Manitoba Bisons before being drafted in the third round (22nd overall) by the Ticats in 2010.
In his third year in Hamilton, Steele suffered a torn patella against the very Eskimos he would bounce back from the injury to play for, a move that culminated in what would become the pinnacle of his career.
In his own backyard of Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field, his Eskimos defeated the Ottawa Redblacks 26-20 to capture his lone Grey Cup championship in 2015.
While Steele didn’t immediately follow head coach Chris Jones and the rest of the Eskimos staff to Regina in a well-publicized switching of allegiances across the Straw Curtain just nine days after hoisting the Cup, a change in ratio strategy by the Eskimos, who wanted an all-American defensive line for the 2017 season, saw Steele play out his final two seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
And he will be forever left wondering just what may have happened if that 2015 Eskimos roster and coaching staff, who won 10 straight games to hoist the Grey Cup, was able to remain together for a little while longer.
“Man, that team that we had was potent, but once the coaches left, it kind of trickled down from there,” Steele told Postmedia. “But I totally agree, at that point in time we had a very dominant team. If we were able to keep it together, who knows what kind of a Cup run we could have went on for the years to come?
“But, I mean, that’s the CFL, right? There is so much turnover every year.”
That type of lightning in a bottle, which was sparked by the return of then-quarterback Mike Reilly to a starting role after missing half a season with a knee injury on opening day, only comes around once in a while.
A shame, really, that the only ones finally able to beat the defending champions from that year was themselves.
“It really was and it’s unfortunate because how everything really just came together, you know? And winning 10 straight to end the year, we were dominating,” recalled Steele, who maintained a streak of always being named one of his team’s captains throughout every level he played. “The next year, there was still quite a bit of the talent there but with the new regime coming in, things were just different.
“It’s tough though, because I think we definitely could have went on to create a mini-dynasty, for sure. It’s hard to hold onto, but that’s pro sports. That’s the business. Reflecting back, it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t have kept it together for another year or two just to see what kind of a run we really could have went on as far as getting to the Grey Cup year in, year out. But it was a good team.”
In all, the six-foot-two, 280-pound Steele, who turns 31 in July, played 123 games in the league, starting 74 games and earning 145 tackles, 18 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge