Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit Credit: Prime Video

No one will deny that Al Michaels isn’t a legendary broadcaster who has earned his place in the annals of American sports history, but that doesn’t mean he gets a pass every time he sucks the enjoyment out of watching Thursday Night Football on Prime Video.

This week’s TNF showdown between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers was a back-and-forth slugfest that saw the Steelers win 20-16 on a late touchdown. Not the most exciting game in NFL history by any stretch, but there was plenty to work with the broadcasters to be able to sell viewers on the big plays that happened throughout.

Not Michaels, however, as he continued his ongoing streak of creating highlights where his lackadaisical call doesn’t match the excitement on the screen.

Take this moment in the third quarter with the score tied at 13. Titans quarterback Will Levis drops back and is almost immediately rushed by the Steelers’ defensive linemen. He is able to dump the ball off to superstar running back Derrick Henry who scampers down the field for a first down and a huge gain. However, if all you had to go by was Michaels’s call, you might have assumed it was a ho-hum three-yard gain.

Here’s a play earlier in the game in which Pittsburgh star TJ Watt gets his helmet popped off but keeps playing and is able to wrap up Levis for a huge sack on third down in the red zone. Michaels might as well be watching the players stretch before the game.

When Kwon Alexander intercepted Levis in the endzone with ten seconds left to cement Pittsburgh’s victory, Michaels mustered a modicum of enthusiasm, but even then it felt a bit like he was already taking off his headset and getting ready to go home.

Don’t just take our word for it as Michaels received plenty of pushback on Thursday evening.

To be fair, the 78-year-old has his defenders as well, but it’s not as though this is a new phenomenon. NFL viewers have been complaining about the play-by-play announcers’ lack of emotional investment since before the 2023 NFL season. His and Tony Dungy’s call of last season’s epic Jacksonville Jaguars comeback from 27-0 to beat the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs was trounced for its lack of energy and failure to meet the moment.

Just last week, Michaels sucked all of the excitement out of a blocked field goal by the Buffalo Bills against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That game ended with a Hail Mary pass and Michaels called it like he was absent-mindedly watching his grandkids play football in the yard.

Some will say that this is just a case of people picking on Michaels because he’s old or because he’s not trying to emulate popular announcers like Gus Johnson or Ian Eagle. But a big part of the reason the legendary broadcaster is getting so much blowback is that he’s been the one leading the charge on how boring Amazon’s slate of Thursday Night Football games has been the last two seasons. He’s the one who has referred to the games as “crap” and said calling them is like trying to sell a used car.

So when there’s actually a decent TNF game and Michaels still won’t step into the energy that comes with calling an NFL game with stakes, it’s extra frustrating. It makes it hard to feel sympathy for him for the on-field product when he’s the one downplaying the action.

Of course, the sum of all fears might be waiting for us next Thursday when the 1-6 Carolina Panthers take on the 2-6 Chicago Bears. Michaels, like most of America, is already pretty tired of seeing the Bears in primetime. But couple that with the fact that this has the chance of being the worst primetime game of the season (which is saying something) and viewers are always preparing themselves and praying for Michaels’ sanity.

There’s a non-zero chance that Michaels simply takes off his headset at some point during this broadcast and lets Kirk Herbstreit figure it out from there.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.