Well, at least they were able to laugh about it later.
At the top of the 6 o'clock news Wednesday morning, WPXI-TV morning anchor Todd McDermott reported Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward had signed with uber-rival Baltimore.
"We're a little in shock," Mr. McDermott said to co-anchor Jennifer Abney.
Mr. Ward might have been as well, were he awake at that hour. He was released later in the day and now can sign with another team.
The "report" apparently came from a BroCouncil.com joke featuring Mr. Ward in a purple Ravens jersey. Among the fake details: Mr. Ward had signed "an incentive laden 3 year, $9 million contract."
In a tipoff that the web site's "news" was not on the up-and-up, Steelers team president Art Rooney II "said" in a fake quote: "Pittsburgh Steelers football may not be the same without him, but his smile was pretty creepy anyway."
At 6:17 a.m., segueing from a warm weather forecast, Mr. McDermott said "Could be May 1, could be April Fool's Day because we got fooled by a Baltimore Ravens spoof web site that said Hines Ward had signed with the Ravens. That can't happen."
BroCouncil is not a spoof site, but occasionally creates such reports, labeling them "spoofs."
"In a world of lightning-quick information, we erroneously used information from a spoof web site. We promise to be more vigilant and tighter measures have been put in place," said Mike Goldrick, WPXI news director.
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published March 7, 2012 5:00 PM