The NFL signaled its public support Wednesday for a taunting penalty at a critical moment of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 29-27 victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
The flag on Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh in the fourth quarter, following a sack of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, gave the Steelers a first down and led to a 52-yard field goal by place-kicker Chris Boswell.
Marsh said afterward that he was simply celebrating the sack. But taunting is a point of emphasis for NFL officials this season, meaning officials are looking for it and are authorized to call anything that resembles previous interpretations, and referee Tony Corrente told a pool reporter that Marsh took a "posture" toward the Steelers' bench.
In a video released Wednesday, NFL senior vice president of officiating administration Perry Fewell echoed Corrente's explanation and supported the call.
"He takes several steps toward the Pittsburgh bench, posturing toward their sideline," Fewell said. "Taunting is a point of emphasis to promote sportsmanship and respect for opponents. This was recommended by the competition committee and coaches."
It had been widely expected that the NFL's early-season emphasis would fade quickly, and indeed, NFL officials announced only eight taunting flags in Weeks 3-7 after calling 11 in Weeks 1-2. But there were 12 in Weeks 8-9, and the total of 31 this season is the second-highest mark since 2000 over that time period.