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The April virtual session of the owners meetings ended with the approval of seven new rules that go into effect for the 2021 season. The "eye in the sky" rule that was proposed by the Ravens was turned down once again, but a similar type of rule was passed.
There is now a rule where the game's replay official can provide information to the on-field referee to help get the call correct without the need for a challenge. The "eye in the sky" rule is an additional eighth official to every crew. That official would be "positioned somewhere other than the playing field, with full communication to on-field officials and access to a television monitor." The defunct AFL originally came up with the eighth "eye in the sky" official.
So, the new replay official rule that was passed is just another set of eyes to help the on-field referee get the call right and not have it go to New York. Steelers president Art Rooney II feels like there are too many people involved with replay. He basically thinks it's overkill.
"Some of the comments we had were along the lines of 'just too much replay,' and I personally think we should do one or the other," Rooney said via Bob Labriola of Steelers.com. "If we're going to bring the extra official in and make him the replay official in the stadium, I wouldn't have a problem with that, but then let's eliminate the replay in New York. I don't think we need both. It's really more of an administration question, in terms of where you're going to do the replays. Before we moved replay to Central Command (in New York), it was done in stadiums and the replay official was part of the officiating crew. I at least think there's some merit to that. With technology and all the camera angles available to us, it's really a question of what's the best way to do it, what's the best location for people to do the replays from. I don't think we need to have that many sets of eyes and that many decision-makers in the mix."
Here's how the new replay official rule is explained: "The replay official and designated members of the officiating department may consult with on-field officials, or conduct a replay review, or advise the game officials on specific, objective aspects of a play when clear and obvious video evidence is present, and/or to address game administration issues, including, but not limited to: penalty enforcement; the proper down; spot of a foul; the game clock; possession; completed or intercepted pass; touching of a loose ball, boundary line, goal line, or end line; location of the football or a player in relation to the boundary line, the line of scrimmage, the line to gain, or the goal line; or down by contact (when a player is not ruled down by contact on the field)."
"I'm not going to tell you I didn't have some concerns about it," Rooney said about the new rule. "It's really a question of: where do you do the replays from, and who really has the ability to overturn a call. This rule is designed to provide more information to the on-field referee who still has the final authority to make a call unless it goes to an official replay. These things are happening without it going to an official challenge. It can get a little confusing, and we'll see how it works. I think we need to look harder at the whole replay situation and make sure we don't have too many voices in the referee's ear."
With technology always advancing and the league trying to find a way to make officiating a perfect science, Rooney feels like the officials are not doing a bad job and all the different rule changes over the years have actually made their jobs harder.
"No. 1, I think our officials do a great job considering the speed of the game," Rooney said. "We've made this a much harder game to officiate than ever before, with all of the different rules changes and the safety rules we have now, so they don't have an easy job and we all recognize that. If we can provide help through replay or through technology, I think we need to be open to look at how best we do that. With the number of cameras and the high-definition cameras nowadays, the clarity is much better than it used to be. Making sure we're getting calls right is the No. 1 consideration. Every year there are proposals designed to make sure we're getting the calls right, but at the end of the day I do think there is such a thing as too many replays and too many people in the referee's ear. There is a balance there we're trying to get to."