Gene Collier: Antonio Brown can bring the Mirror Ball trophy back to Pittsburgh
March 9, 2016 12:16 AM
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown (84) can start showing his moves on "Dancing With The Stars."
By Gene Collier / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Your preferences likely vary, but with the NFL free agency period opening today and nothing but such patently unwatchable offerings as the NFL draft and organized team activities on the horizon, let me just say thank God for “Dancing With The Stars.”
And thank Him or Her, too, for Antonio Brown, the resplendent topic that never dims, no matter the month, the platform, the stage, the spectacle or the seemingly permanent truth that Business is Boomin’!
Yeah, still don’t know what that means.
Small wonder that being a contestant on ABC ratings titan “Dancing With The Stars” makes perfect sense to A.B. In his head, I imagine the cold logic goes something like this:
“Hey, I’m a dancer; I’m a star; I should be on ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ Hines Ward was on it, and he was the Leader of the Wideouts, so I gotta take my opportunity. Plus, I already dress in ‘Dancing With The Stars’ costumes in my everyday life. I must be a natural.”
Brown will debut on DWTS a week from Monday, five years to the day after Ward first appeared in the embrace of Kym Johnson, with whom he ran a skinny post all the way to the house where the Mirror Ball trophy lives.
In the freestyle finals that year, former Super Bowl MVP Ward strode on stage in a black marching band uniform with a gold “S” on his chest, twirling li’l Kym around like the world’s most suggestively attired majorette in one minute, 43 seconds of Steelers history few Pittsburghers thought they would see in their quiet, football-centric lifetimes up and down the Three Rivers.
It was May 23, 2011. You know where you were.
The next night, Hines and Kym won it all.
Over the years, professional football players have become a DWTS staple, with Warren Sapp and Jason Taylor and even temporary Steelers return specialist Jacoby Jones gracing the stage. Somebody told me Jones gained only 14 yards on four dances and fumbled twice, but I couldn’t confirm any of it.
As for Brown, a three-time Steelers MVP, I just hope he realizes that on DWTS, you can’t just do any dance you want, like in an NFL end zone. You can’t do front flips, and you certainly can’t hump the goalpost.
Odds on Brown and dance partner Sharna Burgess getting the Mirror Ball back where it belongs weren’t posted as of Tuesday in Vegas, but they’ll be up soon. I think he’s got as good a chance as Ward had, owing mostly to the level of competition this time.
Brown is out there against Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, who though he’s hugely athletic, doesn’t quite possess Brown’s instantaneous fluidity in space. There’s also former Donald Trump wife Marla Maples, who probably is using this as the jumping off point for a DWTS spinoff, Dancing With Trump’s Ex-Wives, and journalist-turned-spectacle Geraldo Rivera, still the only person I can name who had part of his butt injected into his face.
I’d mention that incident to A.B. but I don’t want to see anything like that in an end zone near me anytime soon.
Ward faced a much more difficult climb, dancing against former boxing champ Sugar Ray Leonard, pro wrestler Chris Jericho, Karate Kid Ralph Macchio and supermodel Petra Nemcova. As I remember writing at the time, borrowing from one of Hines’s all-time great observations, “He’ll have his hands cut out of him.”
As evidenced with Ward, there’s a good percentage of Steelers Nation that would prefer Brown defer this opportunity until after his playing career for fear that something bad might happen. I guess they mean physically, because I don’t see A.B.’s confidence taking a dive because Bruno Tonioli (whom I still suspect is Martin Short) scolds him over his expressiveness or lack of “presence.”
It’s a statistical fact that Ward’s onfield production dropped significantly after his “Dancing” days. For the 2010 Steelers, the season before DTWS, Ward made 15 starts and had 59 catches for 755 yards, a 12.8 yards-per-catch average. The next season he started only nine games, averaged 8.3 yards on 46 catches, and never played again.
Not to worry. Ward was 35 when he went on the show and well to the downside of his great career. Brown is only 27, his best seasons likely in front of him.
In the meantime, A.B.’s gotta live his life. The hypnotic dance of prime-time network TV is calling, and business is booming.
Whatever that means.
The only problem would be if, and, wait, ABC is just announcing one more surprise, one additional contestant for Season 22, and it’s ... it’s ... Vontaze Burfict?
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @genecollier.
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