Bruener a non-issue for Steelers

Mark Bruener showed up for work Monday the same way he has for every other work day this year. <br><br> "I'm going to do that until someone tells me I can't do that anymore," said Bruener. And no one told him to go back home yesterday.

Because the Steelers have signed free-agent Jay Riemersma and back-up Jerame Tuman to new contracts, and because Bruener is coming off of radical microfracture knee surgery, speculation has swirled around the team that Bruener, a former first-round draft pick and eight-year starter, would be released after June 1, thereby allowing the team to spread the cap hit from bonus monies into future seasons.

When asked if the Steelers need to make cap adjustments in order to sign the remainder of their rookie class, director of operations Kevin Colbert shook his head.

"No news to report," he said.

Colbert earlier had told his team's web site, "We don't have to do anything, either to go to training camp or to sign our draft picks."

The only order of business for the Steelers is signing draft picks Troy Polamalu, Alonzo Jackson and Brian St. Pierre. When one is signed, another player must be released for the Steelers to remain under their 81-man roster limit. The Steelers are allowed over the 80-man limit because they have one player in NFL Europe.

Yesterday, the Steelers signed six-year veteran guard Calvin Collins and released rookie free agent Jeremy Conley.

As for Bruener, he's not asking any questions nor expecting to hear any answers.

"I really don't see any reason to worry about things I can't control," he said. "They're going to make a decision on what they're going to do and I can't control that. But what I can do is control how I prepare and how I perform on the football field. And I've been very, very fortunate as far as how I've come back from my injury and I'm very excited about it. I'm very excited that I have an opportunity to help this team."

If Bruener remains with the team under his current contract, he, Tuman and Riemersma will combine to take up $4.32 million of salary-cap space this year. Bruener's base salary for the season will be $2.05 million and he hasn't been asked to renegotiate.

"There's been no discussion on that at all," Bruener said, nor does he anticipate such a discussion.

"If you're being pessimistic then you would anticipate bad things happening," he said. "But if you're a realist or an optimist then I think good things will happen."

As for his knee, Bruener said he's nearly 100 percent healthy.

"I think I'm getting darn close," he said. "We're not doing a lot out here though. I mean you're not hitting as much and you're not pounding as much. I think the true test will come in training camp when you're really in the grind."

It appears as if Bruener will receive that chance at camp, as will Collins, who started at left guard for the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl following the 1998 season.

Collins (6-2, 307) was drafted by the Falcons in the sixth round in 1997 out of Texas A&M. He played in 15 games as a rookie, starting 13 at center and earning All-Rookie honors. He started all 16 games at left guard in 1998, eight games in 1999 and 16 in 2000 -- the first eight at center and the final eight at left guard.

Collins was waived by the Falcons in the 2001 training camp and signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Collins started three games for the Vikings in 2001 and signed with the Houston Texans last off-season. He injured his hamstring at training camp last year and was cut two weeks into the season.

In addition to being able to play guard and center, Collins can also long-snap.

Jim Wexell
Steel City

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