Bruener makes quick homecoming to Pittsburgh
HOUSTON -- The trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday is just another preseason game for most of the Houston Texans. For Mark Bruener, it's a homecoming.
Bruener had typified the Steelers since arriving as a rookie tight end in 1995. Known more for his blocking than receiving, he fit perfectly into the blue-collar Pittsburgh offense built around the run.
Injuries and the salary cap caught up with him last year, and suddenly he was out of a job. The Texans, looking for experienced blocking help, gladly snapped him up.
"It's going to be different to be back playing in Heinz Field not as a Steeler," Bruener said. "I'm most excited that I'm a part of a great football team."
Bruener has looked solid throughout camp and one preseason game, in which he caught a long pass on a bootleg and carried two would-be tacklers several yards before going down. Coach Dom Capers said that catch and run, plus a punishing block on another play, earned Bruener an award the team gives for intimidation plays.
"He's done a good job all the way around," Capers said. "We really like what he's brought to our football team. You saw him compete Saturday night."
Bruener was signed as a blocker to complement Billy Miller, a more accomplished receiver. But Capers also credits Bruener with bringing "some intensity and toughness along with professionalism" to an emerging offense that's still very young at several key positions.
Bruener came away from his first game at Reliant Stadium with a favorable impression, considering the only pro fans he's known have been the famously devoted ones in Pittsburgh.
"Coming from the team I came from as far as the following in Pittsburgh, I'm very impressed with the following in Houston," he said. "It's nice to know what loyal fans you have here this early on in the franchise."
Despite the steadfast loyalty of his former neighbors back in western Pennsylvania, Bruener vows to make some inroads when he returns.
"Let's hope we can get them to root for the Texans at least this one game," Bruener said. "I'm going to bring a few Texans shirts, so maybe I can convince a few Steelers fans to root for us." ^Notes:@ New tailbacks Adam Matthews and KaRon Coleman should get plenty of work in Saturday's preseason game at Pittsburgh. The backs, signed Monday after RB Jason Anderson went down with a broken right leg last weekend, join RB Tony Hollings as the only three on the current roster who are healthy. Starting RB Domanick Davis isn't expected to play because of minor leg injuries, and backup Jonathan Wells also was sidelined in practice Wednesday. "We will keep it simple," coach Dom Capers said. ... Defensive linemen Seth Payne and Junior Ioane, both recovering from injuries, will not play Saturday.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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