During Steelers game, an all-out assault on ESPN ‘Monday Night Football’ crew |
Breakfast With Benz

During Steelers game, an all-out assault on ESPN ‘Monday Night Football’ crew

Tim Benz
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, right, shakes hands with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) after the Steelers defeated the Buccaneers 30-27 during an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

From my experience covering Steelers games, nothing draws greater ire on a weekly basis from the fans than the TV broadcast team.

OK, maybe the officials.

OK, maybe the officials and whoever offensive coordinator is. You know, “that guy making all ‘at money sending in all ‘dem play calls that are so predictable yinz know what’s coming from your couch!”

Oh, you’ve watched a game with someone like that too, huh?

Well, on Monday night, Pete Morelli and his crew sure were in the crosshairs of Steelers fans. And rightfully so.

Current offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner came away unscathed for the most part. But on social media, it was an all-out assault on the new ESPN “Monday Night Football” crew while the Steelers were playing the Buccaneers.

This thought probably comes off a little strange coming from someone who has been in the sports media business for about 25 years, but I really don’t get that worked up about the national broadcasters who call the games of local teams. I hardly notice them unless they make an atrocious mistake.

Maybe it’s because I do a little play-by-play on occasion, so I know how hard of a job it can be. Therefore I’m more forgiving. But there have been times when I’ve watched Sunday night Bengals games against the Steelers, and you would’ve thought that Vontaze Burfict was more liked in Pittsburgh that Cris Collinsworth.

Last night was the first time the Steelers have been on MNF in the regular season since the new broadcast team of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Anthony “Booger” McFarland got the gig.

The reviews were unkind.

To be clear, not all of those tweets were from Steelers fans. But that sentiment was expressed by many with whom I interact and follow. Those were consistent themes locally, too.

All night. A thousand times over.

Even as someone, who tends to be more gracious than the norm when it comes to evaluating broadcasts, I’ve got to agree with a lot of that. Tessitore and Witten did come off as NFL water-carriers when it came to the roughing-the-quarterback calls at first. Their critical analysis of the first few flags was delicate at best until Morelli’s crew got arm-weary from throwing so many.

There was a decidedly pro-management feel about the Le’Veon Bell situation as well, especially as opposed to McFarland’s stance. But to be fair, that could’ve been more of a difference of opinion than it was necessarily an agenda from the booth.

Regarding Witten, yeah, the Smith-Schuster name flub came off as funny. But, c’mon. That’s not exactly the easiest one to spit out at full speed the first few times you try.

And his “left-wing” comment? I’m not going to pile on there since I agree with his sentiment. Perhaps not the most articulate characterization by him, but I agree with the tone he was trying to describe. He’s correct in his message, if not his word choice.

And I’m not a person who has ever been described as “right wing.”

Most people seem to like McFarland. So do I. But that cart really is clumsy and almost claustrophobic. If they want a second analyst on the field beyond just a sideline reporter ­— an idea I like and one that is used in radio broadcasts frequently — with all the advantages of being in the booth, then that’s something they have to fix.

A lot of those other complaints were justified. There was a weird push-pull between Tessitore repeatedly advancing the story of Conner conquering cancer and McFarland trying to get away from it. And Mahomes was promoted to the point that I thought a third quarterback was playing.

Understand, though, NFL ratings have dropped. It behooves the broadcast to promote as many good young players–and storylines–as possible.

Tessitore does have a way of coming off as too much of a college guy. And the rah-rah, salesman, promotional, aspect does reverberate.

Don’t get me wrong. Great pipes. Well prepared and researched. On the call. Enthusiastic. Excellent at the craft.

You know, the important stuff.

But when people gripe about him being too “presentational” and a stereotypical “broadcaster guy,” I think that’s what they mean. When he goes into promotional mode, he does drift into a game show host kind of persona.

At the root of it, the biggest sin those guys committed was simply being new. They’ll get better, and we’ll get used to hearing them.

And tell your grandpa who just learned how Facebook works, no, it’s not possible to “Just have Myron do the games on TV, n’at.”

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