The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their 2023 preseason with a bang, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-17 in the 94 degree at Raymond James Stadium. While the proverbial caution of “…its only preseason” is a wise one – Jarvis Jones and Huey Richardson had outstanding preseason debuts – the Steelers checked several boxes from their “need to improve” list including:
- Kenny Pickett made his reads quickly, threw the ball decisively and worked the middle of the field
- George Pickens looked like a man racing against boys on his touchdown
- Calvin Austin flashed “beep-beep” speed in burning a corner to a crisp on his touchdown
- Anthony McFarland staked a strong claim to the number three running backs spot
The Steelers looked good in their preseason debut.
Alas the same cannot be said for DAZN’s debut with NFL GamePass International. Earlier this year the NFL announced a 10 year partnership to distribution NFL GamePass International via the international sports streaming site DAZN.
On The Athletic the news was greeted with jeers from fans in Canada and other countries who’d already experienced trying to watch NFL games via DAZN.
- Nonetheless, I let my NFL GamePass renew and hoped for the best.
Full Disclosure: I did not watch much of the live stream as the Steelers were facing off against the Buccaneers. I had a medical test in the early evening, had to run some errands on the way home, and was only briefly able to log into the site with my new password during the game.
And to be 100% fair to DAZN the image quality (via Google Chrome, on my PC) appeared to be OK. There may have been an issue of lag between the video and the audio, but to be fair to DAZN, I can’t be sure if I’d left Steelers Nation Radio on via another window.
Which was a good omen, as I’d planned to watch it on Saturday using the “Game in 40” option. (Yes, I know that is a bit hypocritical of a blogger who has sung the praises of preseason repeatedly. Fair enough. I’ve also written that the NFL should reduce the number of TV timeouts so that preseason games only take between 2 and 2 and a half hours.)
Kenny Pickett started the ’23 preseason strong. Photo Credit: AP, via Tribune-Review
DAZN’s NFL GamePass “Game in 40” = A Failure
However the quality of DAZN’s “The Game in 40” was atrocious.
“The Game in 40” was never a great way to watch a game because you lose a feel for the tone and tenor of events, but at least in previous years the viewing experience was pretty seamless.
DANZ’s “Game in 40” was anything but seamless. The image quality was terrible. During the middle of a play runners would begin to move in slow motion. Then you’d suffer a momentary stop. A second later things would resume, but you’d lose at least a second of action. On the next play the same sequence would repeat itself.
During my first attempt to watch DANZ’s “The Game in 40” I got pop ups advising me that, if quality wasn’t good, I should watch via an Ethernet and make sure no one else was streaming video. Well, I was already on an Ethernet, but my wife was watching videos via her cell.
So I waited again until she was in the shower. I tried again, putting all other Wifi devices on airplane mode. The quality of DANZ’s service was just as bad. By the end of Kenny Pickett’s touchdown to George Pickens it was clear that DANZ’s “Game in 40” was unwatchable.
Another friend here in Argentina had a good experience with DANZ’s NFL GamePass, but El Dr. de Acero also had a frustratingly piss-poor experience.
Footage of scoring plays, key third down conversions and major highlights is easily available via Twitter, Steelers.com and YouTube. But as Chuck Noll oft reminded, you win football games by doing ordinary things extraordinarily.
Chuck Noll’s Steelers practiced with no numbers. Photo Credit: Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated
Now I’m not going to pretend to know enough to evaluate things like whether or not Kendrick Green and/or Broderick Jones “pad levels” were promising, but would like to get a chance to see how players who don’t make the highlight reels perform.
Watching preseason games end-to-end in the ‘90’s gave me the insight into under the radar players Lee Flowers and Carlos Emmons. On the flip side, during the ’95 preseason Bam Morris was signaling a sophomore slump (and then some). More recently, in August ’21 my take away was that both the hype generated by Dwayne Haskins performances as a backup and the disillusionment following his lone start were both exaggerated.
Sadly, we’ll never know whether I was right or wrong about Haskins, but I was only able to form an opinion in the first place by watching pre-season games end-to-end.
But with the DAZN’s sudden shifts to slow motion, to stops, to skipping a millisecond I might be able to see that someone blew up a run at the line of scrimmage, but I can’t really tell if it was Kwon Alexander, Nick Herbig, or Keeanu Benton who made the play.
Nor can I really tell if Darnell Washington or Elandon Roberts are really injecting physicality on both sides of the ball.
That’s a shame. Yet there still may be hope.
For better and worse I’ve seen times with Steelers preseason has been deceiving. Sometimes preseason flashes disappear in the pan. Other times the opposite happens. When Bill Cowher and Ben Roethlisberger shared the dais after Super Bowl XL did you wonder, “…And to think Cowher closed preseason by admitting his passing game wasn’t where it needed to be.” No? Neither did I.
So perhaps DANZ’s will get better by the time the regular season arrives.
They’ve left themselves lots of room for improvement.