The taunting emphasis of the NFL struck again in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 29-27 victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Chicago Bears.
Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh was called for taunting the Steelers bench after he had jumped up in celebration after a seemingly critical sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Marsh stared down the Steelers sideline and was flagged by head referee Tony Corrente.
“First of all, keep in mind that taunting is a point of emphasis this year.,” Corrente said in the pool report, via Adam Hoge of NBC Sports Chicago. “And with that said, I saw the player, after he made a big play, run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them.”
As to the taunting specifically, Marsh said he was unaware of the penalty being called until he returned to the bench area.
“I think that that one was just bad timing,” Marsh told reporters after the game. “I think it was pretty clear to everybody who saw it that I wasn’t taunting. I’ve been doing that celebration my whole career and it’s just sad to see stuff like that happen in a close game like that. It’s just rough, man.”
But as Marsh was retreating to the sideline, Corrente appeared to initiate contact with his backside with Marsh as he jogged by toward the sideline.
Corrente said the contact between him and Marsh after the gesture did not contribute to the penalty being called.
“No, not at all,” Corrente said. “I didn’t judge that as anything that I dealt with. … That had nothing to do with it. It was the taunting aspect.”
But Marsh was not at all pleased with the actions of Corrente.
“On my way to the sideline, I got hip-checked by the ref. It’s pretty clear,” Marsh said. “If I were to do that to the ref or even touch the ref, we’d get kicked out of the game and possibly suspended and fined. So I just think that that was incredibly inappropriate.”
Marsh said he didn’t think anything of it in the moment. However, he has since seen the play and thinks Corrente was completely out of line.
“I thought it was accidental,” Marsh said. “You bump into people on the field. It’s football. I didn’t even think about it. I was happy. I got a sack. We’re in a good position to come back and get the victory so I didn’t even put any thought into it at the moment.
“It’s upsetting. I just think that it’s unfair that he has the ability to do that with no consequence.”
In addition to the Marsh penalty, a Bears touchdown was negated by a low block call against Bears right guard James Daniels on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham. Chicago would eventually settle for a field goal on the drive.
Daniels’ block attempt on Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt looked like an almost complete whiff in addition to it coming right on the edge of the tight end box, which would make it a legal play. Corrente said he didn’t view it that way.
“Once again, the new rule this year is there should be no contact below the waist to any player outside of the tight end box. And this player initiated contact to a player outside the tight end box.”
Corrente was then asked if contact has to occur for the foul to be valid.
“I have to judge that there was contact, and that’s what I judged,” he said.