In an NFL statement released Thursday afternoon by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, the league detailed the error and why Vernatchi was suspended.
The fate of the stadium clock operator in San Diego is still being decided.
“Side judge Rob Vernatchi will not officiate in Week 6 as a result of the failure to notice that the game clock was incorrectly started late in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers,” the statement reads. “The mistake will also impact the evaluation of the other six members of the officiating crew, led by referee Pete Morelli.
“The official game time is kept on the stadium scoreboard, but it is the responsibility of the side judge to supervise the timing of the game. Had the side judge or any of the other six on-field officials noticed the timing error, they could have corrected it.
“The status of the clock operator in San Diego, who is an NFL employee, is under review. The Chargers‘ next home game is in Week 7 on Sunday, October 25.”
Obviously, this is something the league will take seriously. Officials are rarely suspended but after another potentially game-changing mistake — the previous week, an official failed to recognize an illegal bat in the end zone that could have cost Detroit a win — officials are under more scrutiny than ever.
The clock started ticking before the first snap of Pittsburgh’s final drive, resulting in a time deduction from 2:56 to 2:38. Le’Veon Bell ended up scoring as time expired on a gutsy call, but imagine if he was unsuccessful. Pittsburgh would have been robbed of another chance to win the game.
Official Roy Ellison is believed to be the last referee suspended for his actions on the field back in 2013, though that particular offense was related to his language.