The NFL is standing behind Monday night's controversial taunting call against Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh, affirming it Friday with a fine.
But privately, members of the NFL's officiating department who reviewed the game acknowledged that referee Tony Corrente and his crew erred on at least three separate critical calls and non-calls that went against Chicago in that 29-27 loss -- including a low block penalty on the Bears that nullified a Justin Fields touchdown pass, sources familiar with the league's thinking said.
Officials also missed multiple penalties by the Steelers, including a late hit on Fields that would've given the Bears first-and-goal on the same third-quarter drive and offsides by multiple Steelers on Cairo Santos' 65-yard field goal attempt that fell short as time expired.
A league spokesman declined comment, which is common on officiating matters. A Bears spokesman also declined comment.
The NFL generally doesn't discipline officials for judgment calls, though being downgraded for performance can affect officials' postseason assignments.
Corrente's nationally televised taunting call on Marsh wiped out a third-down stop in the final minutes and became the new centerpiece of the public debate over the NFL's point of emphasis on calling that foul. NFL senior vice president of officiating Perry Fewell indicated in a social media video the call was correct, and Marsh was fined $5,972 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
But no call was more impactful than the low-block flag on right guard James Daniels, who appeared to be at the edge of the tight end box and made minimal contact with the defender. The penalty reversed a 1-yard touchdown pass from Fields to tight end Jimmy Graham on the Bears' first possession of the second half, leaving them facing second-and-goal from the 16.
Two plays later, Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith knocked down Fields from behind well after he released the ball, but no flag was thrown and the Bears had to settle for a field goal that cut Pittsburgh's lead at the time to 14-6. Fields said after the game he told Corrente that "Big Ben just got that call" -- referring to a roughing call against Mario Edwards on the previous drive -- and he needs it called both ways.
Several Steelers appeared to be lined up in the neutral zone on Santos' attempt at a game-winning field goal, which came up well short. A penalty would've given Santos another chance from five yards closer, or perhaps brought Fields back on for a Hail Mary attempt.
Instead of Fields leading a signature road win and keeping Chicago within a half-game of the No. 7 NFC playoff spot, the Bears went into this weekend's bye at 3-6. They host the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday.