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Steelers All-Pro WR, 'DWTS' contestant Brown keeps busy with celebrity softball game

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 8:48 p.m.
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown sits with bat boy Max Cieply, 6, of McCandless (left) and bat girl Maddie Garner, 11, of Bridgeport, W.Va., during a news conference Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville announcing the date of the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown sits with bat boy Max Cieply, 6, of McCandless (left) and bat girl Maddie Garner, 11, of Bridgeport, W.Va., during a news conference Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville announcing the date of the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown and bat boy Max Cieply, 6, of McCandless poses for photos with The Wild Thing on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville following a news conference announcing the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown and bat boy Max Cieply, 6, of McCandless poses for photos with The Wild Thing on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville following a news conference announcing the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown gets a hug from Children's Hospital patient Chyna Harper, 14, of McKees Rocks following a news conference Wednesday, May 4, 2016, announcing the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown gets a hug from Children's Hospital patient Chyna Harper, 14, of McKees Rocks following a news conference Wednesday, May 4, 2016, announcing the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown gets a smile from Children's Hospital patient Raelynn Palermo, 1, as her mother, Ashley Nuse, of Erie holds her daughter following a news conference Wednesday, May 4, 2016, announcing the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. 'She usually doesn't smile for anyone,' said Nuse.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown gets a smile from Children's Hospital patient Raelynn Palermo, 1, as her mother, Ashley Nuse, of Erie holds her daughter following a news conference Wednesday, May 4, 2016, announcing the Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game to support the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. 'She usually doesn't smile for anyone,' said Nuse.

Antonio Brown talked about how much giving back means to him, posed for photos with Children's Hospital patients and flashed his ubiquitous smile when listing who he's inviting to the celebrity softball game he's throwing next month.

And where was Brown heading immediately following the news conference at Children's announcing the event that will benefit it?

“I'm about to go to dance practice right after this,” Brown said Wednesday.

The whirlwind offseason for the Steelers' All-Pro receiver continued. Brown was in Hollywood for the seventh episode of “Dancing With the Stars” on Monday and at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for offseason workouts with teammates Tuesday. On Wednesday, he was in Lawrenceville for the news conference, then left for his dance lesson.

Quite a shift from where Brown was when Steelers season ended in January: absent from an AFC playoff game in Denver after suffering a concussion late in a dramatic victory at Cincinnati the week before.

Having football taken away from him for the first time, and at such a meaningful juncture, led Brown to appreciate the game more. Dance contests and charity softball games — as much as they mean to him — aren't taking away his focus from football.

“The way I ended the season just provided a lot of motivation for me coming into this season,” Brown said. “You never know how much you appreciate it until you're not able to go out there and play. And not to be out there in the playoff game is definitely a little disheartening and humbling, and it added a little more motivation to this year for being hungry and taking care of myself.”

Brown's event, “Antonio Brown and Friends Celebrity Softball Game,” will be June 11 at Consol Energy Park in Washington. Brown said he expects Steelers stars Le'Veon Bell and Maurkice Pouncey to be among teammates who participate in the game, which will benefit the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.

“I'm going to try to get as many people as I can. I'm reaching out to everybody on my phone from (Carolina Panthers quarterback) Cam Newton to DJ Khaled,” Brown said.

Speaking to a small group of local media for the first time since a hard hit by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict left him on the turf in January, Brown touched on some Steelers issues:

• He has not had a chance to speak with receiver Martavis Bryant, whom the NFL suspended in March for a minimum of one year. “Just really upset and disappointed about the situation. But I'm praying for him. He knows how I feel about him. I know we're not turning our back on him.”

• On if he still wants to handle punt return duties in light of the Steelers drafting Demarcus Ayers, in large part for his ability: “Whatever is best for the team: If they need me to return punts, I'm always preparing like a starter, always catching them in practice. Whatever decision they make, hopefully it's the best one for the team. And I'm always wanting to be back there in that regard.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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