Botched Steelers' call spurs debate

| Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008

The head of NFL officials is pushing for more flexibility in reviews of disputed plays to prevent the kind of calls that cost Troy Polamalu a touchdown at the end of the Steelers' 11-10 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officials, said Monday he plans to talk to members of the league's eight-person competition committee individually about changing how the review rule is administered.

As it stands, once the referee watches video of a disputed call and confers with the replay assistant about it, he cannot contact the assistant once he returns to the playing field.

That is true even if there is still confusion, as was the case Sunday when officials in the Chargers-Steelers game were unsure of which lateral hit the ground on the final play and ended up making the wrong call.

The competition committee meets at the NFL scouting combine in February and proposes rules changes that owners vote on in March at their annual meeting.

Pereira said he is not proposing a rule change, which means the league could address the issue before the end of the season.

"Is this something you can talk about and implement for the playoffs, or is it something you want to discuss with the membership first before you do it?" Pereira said. "Discuss it with the owners. It remains to be seen what they may think."

Reviews already add to the length of games, which routinely run past three hours. As such, there might be some resistance to anything that could add more time to the review process.

Pereira, however, said the changes he hopes to make are minor.

He said he wants the replay assistant to be able to contact the referee if a mistake has been made on the field following a review. Pereira said the referee should also be allowed to talk to the replay assistant if something is still unclear following a review, which happened Sunday at Heinz Field.

Officials got the touchdown call right on the field and an official review confirmed it, but referee Scott Green ultimately made the wrong call because of a mix-up.

"He got confused and certainly handled it wrong," Pereira said.

Pereira said nothing in place allowed Green to double check with the replay assistant about the call or for the replay assistant to alert Green that the wrong call had been made.

"It's something the competition committee needs to think about it," Pereira said. "It just seems logical."

While the final play in Sunday caused an uproar in the betting community, the Steelers weren't exactly thrilled with the way officials called the game prior to it.

The Steelers were penalized 13 times for 115 yards. San Diego, by comparison, had just two penalties for 5 yards, and one of them came on the final play when the Chargers were flagged for an illegal forward pass.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin held his tongue about the officiating after the game, but the team sent a report to Pereira about calls it deemed to be questionable.

When asked about the disparity in penalties Sunday, Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said: "I ain't even going to go there. I'm going to let Tomlin take all them fines. I ain't got nothing to say about that."

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