Catching on just in time

The Steelers dropped the ball against Baltimore so many times wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lost count.

"I don't know how many we had, probably, like, six or eight," Smith-Schuster offered.

But they still managed to emerge unbeaten, thanks in no small part to a combat catch that helped save the day.

It was made by wide receiver James Washington amid a crowd of Ravens on third-and-6 from the Steelers' 17-yard line with 2:36 left in regulation and the Steelers trying to protect a 19-14 lead.

The 16-yard gain moved the chains and went a long way toward the Steelers being able to run out the clock and finally close out Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon at Heinz Field.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field

"There were some plays made today when they needed to be," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "Look at the James Washington catch. What an unbelievable play by him to go up and make the play.

"Really, it's just my trust and belief in him, his belief in himself that he's going to make the play. He did. I don't want to talk about the negative. I'd like to talk about that positive play that he made. Plus, a lot of JuJu's plays were tough, grind-it-out plays."

Washington caught two passes for 19 yards.

Smith-Schuster had eight receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown.

Roethlisberger finished 36-for-51, for 266 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

As for all those balls that weren't caught, "Those were crucial dropped passes where it's third down, where it's fourth down, these are plays that we have to make, especially in the red zone," Smith-Schuster said. "I think we had a lot of balls dropped in the red zone where possibly they could be seven points instead of three points."

Added Roethlisberger: "I need to be more accurate with my passes. I need to give them better chances to make the plays."

BIG-PICTURE PERSPECTIVE: Disappointment in the Steelers' performance against the Ravens was expressed in the aftermath from head coach Mike Tomlin on down.

But not in the result.

"I think it speaks to the strength of the team," Roethlisberger said. "When we're disappointed after winning a football game, that's a feeling that not many people have.

"I think part of the reason we have heavy hearts, too, is because of our chaplain lost his brother this week. Obviously not knowing what's going on with (outside linebacker) Bud (Dupree, who limped to the locker room late in the fourth quarter). There's a lot of heaviness going on right now in this locker room. We have three football games in 12 days, just a lot going on.

"Mentally, we're getting into that mental warfare, if you will. Proud of the way the guys won the game today, but we have to get ready to keep going."

DEGREE-OF-DIFFICULTY DEBATE: The Ravens activated 10 players from their practice squad as COVID-19 replacements prior to kickoff, and Baltimore's Reserve/COVID-19 list contained many of the Ravens' most recognizable names, including quarterback Lamar Jackson.

"Obviously, we did not overlook them," outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. "Everybody out there is paid to be a professional football player. There are no walk-ons here and we just got to start faster. We got to play better."

Smith-Schuster had a different take on the Ravens and the game.

"We played like JV," he said. "We played down to their level. They came out with a JV squad. We were playing JV. We didn't come out and execute and play the way we wanted to play.

"It was a close game, which it shouldn't have been."

GETTING STARTED: First-year pro J.C. Hassenauer started at center for Maurkice Pouncey (Reserve/COVID-19 list).

Hassenauer's first career start earned a passing grade from Roethlisberger.

"We've taken some snaps in the past during practice, not a lot, but some," Roethlisberger said. "I thought he did a great job for being thrown in the fire. This is not an easy defense with looks and things.

"We had no C-Q exchange issues. He needs to be commended for that."

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