Steelers fans cheer 'DWTS' star Brown
Standing on the east concourse inside Heinz Field, on a stage set up between two large pillars depicting the Steelers' second and third Lombardi trophies, Sharna Burgess showed off an entirely different trophy to almost 200 cheering fans.
The “Dancing With the Stars” Mirror Ball.
“We're going to have to work really, really hard for this,” said Burgess, one of the reality show's professional dancers. “But we're going to bring this back to Pittsburgh for you guys.”
The crowd inside the Great Hall cheered the same way they might have inside the seating bowl a few hundred feet away for an Antonio Brown touchdown.
Brown also soaked up the cheers on Thursday morning. Only this time, it was during his first public appearance since being announced as part of the cast for the next season of “Dancing With the Stars.”
Brown and his partner, Burgess taped a segment for the show in a setting that resembled a pep rally.
“Who's ready to see me for some dance moves?” Brown asked, eliciting loud cheers, soon after arriving and taking the stage.
Fans frequently chanted, “A-B, A-B, A-B,” and, at one point, “Shar-na, Shar-na, Shar-na.”
“He was taking cell-phone photos and selfies and Snapchats with everyone, signing autographs and stuff,” said Sandy Van Dyk, who drove in from East Deer Township with her daughter, Taylor. “He was having a good time, and his partner was, too.”
A line formed more than 30 minutes before the 10 a.m. appearance time Brown and Burgess had posted on social media. They did not address fans until after 11 a.m.
A random sampling found those who attended were split almost evenly between those who are fans of the Steelers, the show or both.
“‘Gram' watches that show,” 17-year-old Connor Riley said when asked if he was a “DWTS” fan.
Riley was en route from his Fall River, Mass., home to Indianapolis to tour Butler University with his father, Kyle, who is a lifelong Steelers fan. Coincidentally, they chose Pittsburgh as an overnight stop, and Kyle Riley was delighted when he found out about Brown's appearance.
“We looked it up, and sure enough (Brown) is favored to win,” Riley said. “So we texted the family to say we're taking ‘AB' in the ‘Dancing With the Stars' poll.”
Tom Parker, a 40-year-old from Beaver County who waved a 3-foot photo of a smiling Brown head throughout the appearance, said Brown can claim the Mirror Ball.
“He's going to get the votes to win, and has the fanbase to win,” Parker said. “Similar to Hines (Ward).”
Brown solicited questions from fans, including if he had talked to former teammate and fellow Pro Bowl receiver Ward about what to expect.
“Hines gave me great pointers,” Brown said. “Obviously, Hines won it (Season 12), so the pressure's on.”
Lauded for his football work ethic, Brown said he and Burgess will practice four hours a day, six days a week heading into the competition.
“Anything you do in life, you gotta do your best,” Brown told the crowd. “No matter what it is.”
Dressed in an all-black shirt, pants, glittery shoes and jacket, Brown danced only briefly with Burgess for the audience. He already had shown off his moves over social media.
Toward the end of the event, an audience member reached up to hand Brown a baby.
“Let him know it's blessed – kiss the baby on the forehead!” a fan yelled.
Brown concurred, and the crowd cheered.