The Steelers/Bears game on Monday night was never going to be a fun watch, but the refs went and somehow made it not only a slog, but an infuriating slog. Arguably one of the worst reffed games all year, and the pinnacle of the entire shitshow was the taunting call on Cassius Marsh late in the game that kept a dead Steelers drive alive and allowed them to eventually kick a field goal.

The entire game was bad though, one of those games that makes even the staunchest fan briefly wonder if the fix is in. I do not believe games are fixed. I don’t have any reason to believe the refs have money on the games and are doing this explicitly. It might be happening, but until I’m presented with full proof, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I do however believe that the refs are subject to home-field crowd reaction bias and have feelings and vendetta of their own that can come out on calls. This game felt like Tony Corrente has a grudge against the Bears and was playing into the Steelers crowd. It was terrible.

Here’s a highlight video of the calls/non calls. Several penalties are fine. I was okay with the first Fields non-call too because to me Fields initiated the contact. Several penalties are the usual “I don’t know about that one” level of bad that aren’t egregious but probably should have gone the opposite way, either called or ignored. That’s every game.

The most obvious discrepancy between teams was the calls between Fields getting roughed and Ben getting roughed. Ben got the typical weak roughing calls, Fields got hit late even worse, multiple times, and got nothing. That’s a common problem though and not unique to this game. Running QBs always get fewer flags even when they are not running and young QBs always get fewer flags because they haven’t “earned” it. Both reasons are bullshit. Running QBs are still QBs until they become runners. Rookie QBs absolutely should not suffer worse hits because they are new. That’s some nonsense. Call the game evenly. Your job is to make sure everything is fair.

There was then the dubious call against James Daniels on a touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham. They called a low block on Daniels. Daniels never even touched TJ Watt. How can you call a guy for basically faceplanting into the turf for attempting to block? Terrible call, cost the Bears 7 points.

But the creme de la creme of the night was the call on Marsh. The Bears have momentum in the middle of a comeback and Marsh sacks Big Ben. He does a celebration, looks somewhere off-screen, then wanders back to the sideline. Flag comes in late. Taunting. Drive stays alive. It was immediately roasted because it was a dubious call on an already terrible rule. Corrente and the NFL maintain that Marsh “glared at the Steelers sideline” and he deemed it taunting. Almost every taunting call this year has been weak shit, but at the very least most of them featured the player actually getting into the other team’s face. Marsh…mean mugged at them from 30 yards away. Are you kidding me?

What made it worse, and what started the suspicion the game was fixed among the more conspiratorial crowd, was the replay showing Corrente throwing the flag. He doesn’t throw the flag as Marsh is glaring. (By the way, small note, Marsh was facing away from Corrente, so Corrente’s judgement call on him glaring is…effectively speculation on his part. he doesn’t know where Marsh is looking, just which way he’s facing).  But Corrente holds onto the flag until Marsh begins to trot back to the Bears, and instead of getting out of the way, he fucking hip checks him, then hurls the flag. Like he was baiting it so he could throw it. If Tony Corrente doesn’t have bias against the Bears or Marsh in particular, it’s hard to watch that and come to that conclusion. Possibly the worst call of the year in the worst called game of the year.

The refs rounded out the game by calling multiple neutral zone infractions on the Steelers game-winning drive. The Bears did in fact do that, which was stupid on their part. The Steelers also lined up in the neutral zone on the Bears last play, but did that get flagged? No. Would have probably made a difference for that field goal attempt.

I know the usual arguments and I’ve seen them already. Yes, the losing team can’t blame the entire loss on the refs. They could have executed better been more disciplined yadda yadda yadda. Yes, the benefitting team has also had games where they got screwed by the refs. Yes, refs make bad calls every game. Yes, losing fans are being bitter. All these arguments are true but I hate seeing them pop up every time because it feels like a way to brush the problem aside and not force accountability. The Refs need to be held accountable for performances this bad. Reffing has been going downhill for years now, especially with the rulebook becoming more convoluted. The goal of the ref is to control the game, be fair, and be as invisible as possible. The refs in this game did none of that.