During a 14-year NFL career in which he was the bane of defensive players who regularly received his explosive blocks, Hines Ward said he never ran scared.
That is, until he was running from explosions, courtesy of Bane.
The retired Steelers wide receiver relayed the story Tuesday evening as he filed in for the Pittsburgh premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" -- partially shot here last summer -- at the Byham Theater Downtown.
Ward makes his silver screen debut -- along with several of his former Steelers teammates -- as a member of the fictional Gotham Rogues football team in scene shot in August at Heinz Field. The field comes under a terrorist attack from the movie's villain, Bane, and is blown up while Ward returns a kickoff for a touchdown.
"To do it in one take -- because you can't blow up a field twice -- I was literally running scared. I never ran scared in my life. But to hear those explosions -- it put a little umph under my butt to run a little bit faster," Ward said.
"One went off about 15 yards away from me, and you can feel it. The funny thing about it is -- people say you're always laughing while you're running. I was actually screaming, that's how loud it was."
Legendary Entertainment CEO and "The Dark Knight Rises" producer Thomas Tull -- a minority owner of the Steelers -- said this was special because it combined two of his passions from childhood.
"Being able to take Batman and Steeler football and put them into one thing together is pretty spectacular," Tull said. "This to me is a big deal."
Tull hosted the screening as a salute to Pittsburgh, and beneath the theater's blinking marquee a fitting mesh of Tinseltown and the Steel City unfolded: limousines dropping off VIP cargo before a procession of paparazzi, while almost on cue, the Just Ducky tour made a few quack-quack-quacking drive-bys.
And red carpets? Nah. Try red bricks instead. The VIPs came in on the same sidewalk as everybody else, a point not lost on Steelers guard Doug Legursky, who was in attendance along with at least a dozen teammates.
"This is the Pittsburgh premiere. We're just walking on gum-filled bricks down here," he laughed. "At the L.A. premiere, they'll [put down] the red carpets. We like it this way a lot better."
And while the event was heavy on the bigwigs -- Pirates owner Bob Nutting was a guest, as was Gov. Tom Corbett, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- many of the 1,200 attendees included rank-and-file local crew who had a hand in the movie production and their families.
Current Steelers LaMarr Woodley, Jerricho Cotchery, Max Starks, Greg Warren, John Malecki were spotted entering the theater, as was retired great, Jerome Bettis.
Bettis was asked if he'd rather be Batman or Bane?
"Batman. He had all the good toys," Bettis said. "Who would not want to be the ultimate good guy? You get all the toys -- sweetest cars, motorcycles, you get the planes, you get all the trinkets, plus you get a good outfit."
Wouldn't that be too tight for the famously wide-bodied Bus?
"The cape hides a lot of the backside."
Dan Gigler can be reached at email@example.com, 412-263-1884 and Twitter @ gigs2312. First Published July 18, 2012 4:15 AM