Taunting penalties have been a “point of emphasis” this NFL season, and the controversial infraction reared its head at a crucial moment in Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears.
With less than four minutes remaining in the game, the Steelers – holding a 23-20 lead – faced a third-and-8 at the Bears’ 47-yard line. Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh – who spent training camp with the Steelers but was released prior to the start of the regular season – sacked Ben Roethlisberger for a 7-yard loss, seemingly ending Pittsburgh’s drive. In his celebration of the big play, Marsh took several steps toward the Steelers’ sideline.
Official Tony Corrente threw a flag on Marsh for taunting, but not until after the two bumped into each other as Marsh returned to the Bears’ side of the field. The Steelers’ drive continued and finished with a Chris Boswell field goal. After Quarterback Justin Fields and receiver Darnell Mooney connected on a 16-yard touchdown play with 1:46 remaining to give the Bears a 27-26 lead, the Steelers had enough time to march down the field for Boswell’s winning kick in a 29-27 victory.
After the game, Marsh said that Corrente “hip checked” him.
“I just think that was incredibly inappropriate,” Marsh said after the game.
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Marsh also took issue with the notion that his reaction warranted a taunting penalty.
“I think that one was just bad timing. It’s pretty clear to everybody who saw it that I wasn’t taunting,” Marsh said. “I’ve been doing the celebration my whole career. It’s just sad to see stuff like that happen in a close game like that.”.
Added Bears linebacker Roquan Smith: “That was a BS call. The man’s been doing that celebration his entire career, and for that to be called – but hey, it is what it is.”.
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Corrente also gave his side of what transpired, both with the penalty and the contact with Marsh.
“First of all, keep in mind that taunting is a point of emphasis this year,” Corrente said. “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.”.
When asked about how video showed that he had brief contact with Marsh, Corrente said it didn’t contribute to the penalty being called.
“I didn’t judge that as anything that I dealt with,” Corrente said. “That had nothing to do with it. It was the taunting aspect.”.
In what was a mistake-riddled evening for the Bears at Heinz Field, Chicago was penalized 12 times for 115 yards.