The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The NFL will in the near future adopt the ‘sky judge’ concept as part of their regular officiating crew.
Explanation: A sky judge official is basically anybody who can communicate with the on-field officials who has live access to video review and can have some input or guidance on calls without the replay system being activated. Multiple rule proposals along these lines were suggested this year. Neither were adopted, but it will be experimented with during the preseason.
I’m always going to side on the fence of propositions that seek to make the officiating of the game more accurate, and that is what the sky judge would be able to do. It can also help to speed up games by self-correcting obviously bad calls that otherwise would have to be overturned view the challenge or booth review process, so that’s a major incentive.
The league really botched the pass interference review rule in execution last season, and they know it, so they don’t want to rush into another replay expansion. That’s why they’re testing it in the preseason. It won’t be adopted in time for 2020, especially not with a likely shortened preseason, but maybe for 2021 at the earliest. Momentum for it will exist until it passes. The NFL can’t keep staying stuck in its ways, in the past.
On the other hand, this is a league that still measures distances with a chain that officials run on and off the field based on an eye-spotted ball placement by officials that frequently is laughably inaccurate. In a game that that advertise as one that comes down to inches.
If they are willing to be this lackadaisical with the very idea of where the ball ended up and how close it is to being a first down, then there is no reason to be confident they will adopt any kind of new idea about officiating the game.
Add on top of that the PI failure, and they’re gun-shy to touch replay. Maybe some time down the road they’ll adopt it, but don’t look for it in the near future.