The significance of the game clock error in the Pittsburgh Steelers win on Monday Night Football isn't as amplified since the Steelers were able to score on a Le'Veon Bell run with 5 seconds left in the game, but if the San Diego Chargers would have stopped Bell short of the goal line, fans would have had their pitchforks and torches ready to riot.
The NFL doesn't like to admit fault on anything, but they had no choice after video evidence showed the game clock was left running for 18 seconds before the final drive started for the Steelers. The NFL released the following statement regarding the situation, and who was at fault.
With 2:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, San Diego kicked off to Pittsburgh. The kick resulted in a touchback. By rule, the game clock does not start if the receiving team possesses the ball in the end zone and does not carry it into the field of play.
Because of an error by the clock operator, the game clock was incorrectly started before the Steelers' first play from scrimmage following the touchback. That first down snap came with 2:38 left to play instead of 2:56, a difference of 18 seconds.
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 game clock is not subject to instant replay review unless there is a timing issue on the last play of the first half or the last play of the game.
The performance of the clock operator and game officials will be reviewed per the standard procedure for reviewing every play of every game.
The side judge in the game was Rob Vernatchi, per ProFootballTalk. Mr. Vernatchi will now most likely be downgraded after such a blunder on the prime time stage. This marks the second consecutive week the NFL has had a major officiating mistake on their biggest weekly stage of Monday Night Football. At least for Mr. Vernatchi's sake, the Steelers didn't need the extra 18 seconds which ran off the game clock...5 seconds was all Bell would need to ice the game.