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Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009

Let's hope that big brown bear is right.

Goaded by an animal keeper at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Rocky the Kodiak bear on Saturday picked the Steelers as winners of next week's Super Bowl.

The zoo conducted a pep rally yesterday as anticipation builds for Sunday's Super Bowl matchup between the Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. Perhaps because of the 20-degree temperatures, the crowd yesterday was unusually thin.

Rocky's antics began when the keeper placed two boxes in the bear's area, one marked with the Steelers logo, the other with a bright red cardinal. Rocky, who turns 27 today, made his way to the Steelers box in a matter of seconds.

"I think we have a winner," Mo Brown, the animal keeper, told a few dozen people who watched the bear in amusement. Brown laughed when asked what he put in the box to lure his pal and would not say.

The bear and several of his friends -- two lions, three orangutans, and five gorillas -- hammed it up for zoo visitors. The lions tore up cardinals cutouts in their pen. The orangutans rubbed their bodies with Terrible Towels. One of them put on a Steelers T-Shirt.

"That's hilarious," said Nicole Skarbek of Butler who was holding her 20-month-old son, Gavin. "We're excited. We didn't know there was going to be a pep rally."

About two dozen people watched the animals do their tricks and egged on a group of gorillas as they wrestled a snowman sporting a Cardinals jersey. Bill Hawk of New Kensington, was decked out in a Steelers jogging suit, his Terrible Towel tucked in his pocket.

He missed Friday's big rally at Heinz Field and took photographs of the animals for his grandchildren and great-grandkids.

"I've been a Steelers fan all my life," said Hawk, 71. "I feel good about this game. I think they're going to win."

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