June 5, 2023

Steinberg’s MMQB: An encouraging start


Quarterback play was an issue for the Saskatchewan Roughriders last season and contributed to the team’s seven-game skid that ultimately led to them missing the playoffs. By making a splash with their Trevor Harris signing in February, the Riders showed they were committed to upgrading at the game’s most important position.

Now, after the way Harris and Mason Fine played in a pair of preseason wins, fans in Sask should be feeling positive heading into week 1.

Let’s start with Harris, who made his Roughriders’ preseason debut in Friday’s 28-16 win over Winnipeg. After missing Saskatchewan’s preseason opener to be with his wife for the birth of their third child, we weren’t sure how much Harris would play against the Bombers.

It turns out he played just the one series, but that series was quite encouraging. Harris completed all four of his passes on a nine-play, 83-yard drive that gave the Riders a 6-0 lead.

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“It felt good to get out there and just feel the play clock and be able to do some things that we wanted to do,” Harris said post-game. “We kept it real base and simple, which was our strategy. We want to stay base and simple all year so we can execute them fast, but I really love the guys all hitting their spots. The o-line protected well and we were able to get the ball down the field.”

And perhaps just as promising were the guys he’s referring to hitting their spots.

Harris hit Jake Wieneke, who also joined the Riders from Montreal this winter, on his first pass. His second was a nice connection with newcomer Shawn Bane Jr. for 19 yards. And the last two were to fellow free agent addition Derel Walker, including one for 37 yards to get Saskatchewan into the red zone. Walker then caught a touchdown pass for five yards to finish off the drive.

With a completely revamped group of receivers for 2023, seeing Harris connect with all three of Wieneke, Walker and Bane is important. With Canadian star Kian Schaffer-Baker making his way back from off-season surgery, Harris will be heavily relying on that trio in the early going.

With a number of new faces joining Trevor Harris in the Riders’ offence, it was encouraging to see them play well in the preseason (Riderville.com)

It was also nice to see a second straight solid preseason outing for Fine. Friday in Winnipeg saw Fine throw for 86 yards and a touchdown in parts of three quarters of work, which followed up his strong outing against BC the week prior. Fine, who started the final two games of last season, could very well be called upon this season, so a good preseason is encouraging to see.

It’s also important to note how pointed an effort Saskatchewan made in upgrading its offensive line this summer. Free agent signings like Philip Blake and Peter Godber should help Harris and Fine stay upright far more often than in 2022.

Yes, the preseason can only tell us so much. But what we’ve seen from the Riders on offence, specifically at quarterback, has been quite positive. Let’s see how much of an indicator that is for what’s to come.


All nine teams have trimmed their rosters down to size for the start of the 2023 season, which just happens to be Thursday night. Every year there are a few names released from camp who end up making an impact elsewhere later in the year. That will almost definitely be the case again this season.

Shawn Lemon, defensive end

This man finished second overall in sacks last season with 14 while adding a league leading five forced fumbles along the way. Last year saw Lemon finish as a CFL All-Star and the West Division Most Outstanding Defensive Player, proving to everyone there was still plenty left in his tank. Someone signing him for this season will get a motivated Lemon with something to prove once again.

Marc Liegghio, kicker/punter

Marc Liegghio was one of the Bombers’ final cuts, but could land elsewhere in the CFL in short order (bluebombers.com)

After two years full of ups and downs in Winnipeg, Leigghio finds himself a free agent for the first time in his professional career. A National product, I’m curious to see if a team takes a look at the 2020 fifth-round pick at some point this season, specifically as a punter. Liegghio has shown some real flashes in the punting game and if he can dial in his consistency, I still think there’s something there.

Papi White, receiver

White was limited to just eight games in 20212 but had a few strong outings in the second half of the year. One of the league’s speediest receivers, White has also shown to be dangerous in the return game in his two seasons with Hamilton. At just 26, it wouldn’t be a surprise if White finds himself on another roster at some point in 2023.

Derek Dennis, offensive line

Much like Lemon, the 34-year-old Dennis is coming off a resurgent season where he was named a league All-Star for the second time in his career. After a leg injury sidelined him late in 2022, Dennis was one of Calgary’s final cuts over the weekend. Knowing he excels at left tackle, Dennis should at the very least receive interest as a new free agent.

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