Monday night's controversial taunting flag has received further justification from the league office.
NFL senior VP of officiating Perry Fewell addressed the taunting flag during his weekly video reviewing a collection of penalties across the league. In the video, Fewell was direct in his explanation of the penalty, supporting referee Tony Corrente's judgment in throwing a flag on Bears defender Cassius Marsh.
"In Chicago versus Pittsburgh, Bears No. 59 is penalized for taunting," Fewell explained in a video posted to Twitter. "He takes several steps toward the Pittsburgh bench, posturing toward their sideline. Taunting is a point of emphasis to promote sportsmanship and respect for opponents. This was recommended by the competition committee and coaches."
As Fewell indicated in the video, Marsh's decision to posture toward Pittsburgh's sideline -- the area of the field containing the majority of players Marsh called teammates just a week earlier -- was the final straw, prompting Corrente to throw a flag. Fewell's explanation also sides with Corrente's postgame explanation for the penalty, which many wondered was the result of contact made by Corrente and Marsh in passing. The flag was not, as Corrente said and Fewell supported, due to the incidental contact.
Marsh's penalty altered the landscape of the prime-time game, transforming what would have been a fourth-down punting situation for the Steelers into a fresh set of downs, which Pittsburgh used to move into field goal range. Chris Boswell converted the 52-yard field goal attempt, extending Pittsburgh's lead to 26-20.
The Steelers ended up winning the Monday night affair, 29-27.
Taunting has been a flashpoint of criticism for the NFL this season, with officials penalizing players for gesturing (or in this case, posturing) or lobbing verbal taunts toward opponents. On Monday night, it again surfaced, this time in a critical moment.
As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and others have said, players will have to adjust accordingly. Marsh is certain to join those players changing their process.