Bruener will stay

As you read this very sentence, Steelers tight end Mark Bruener is making what has to be one of the biggest decisions of his life. Does he give in to the Steelers' wishes and take a pay cut of nearly $1.25 million, or does he allow the team to release him and hope he can sign on somewhere else for more money?

Actually, Bruener's decision is pretty much all but made for him. By waiting this long to give him the take-it-or-leave-it offer, the Steelers have pretty much forced Bruener to accept their offer.

Sure, he could decide to take a walk and test the free agent market. But let's face it, at this point the free agent money that was out there - and it wasn't all that hot a market this year - has been spent. And blocking tight ends don't exactly command top dollar, even in a hot market.

The most Bruener would likely get as a free agent would be the veteran minimum salary of $650,000 with little or no signing bonus.

That's how the Steelers arrived at the $750,000 offer. They figured it was unlikely he would take a chance to go elsewhere when he's not going to make any more money than the Steelers are offering.

Mark Bruener and his family make their home in Pittsburgh. A devoted family man, he probably won't want to uproot his family or be away from them for the time a full season would require.

Plus, if he did go somewhere else and the Steelers were to win the Super Bowl, it would absolutely eat Bruener up. He's missed their last two playoff runs with injuries and it's killed him. He doesn't want to miss another.

And the fact that he would be one of three tight ends the team would use would surely help keep him healthy all season long. Look for Bruener's decision to be one in which he accepts the team's offer and stays in Pittsburgh.

And the money the team saves on his contract this year will be used to begin signing players to contract extensions, beginning with new left tackle Marvel Smith, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

Dale Lolley

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