The ones that got away

On the day outside linebacker T.J. Watt was officially named the Steelers' MVP, last year's winner was still processing another difficult moment in what has been a trying season.

"Honestly, the only thing that can heal that is time and getting ready to play the next game," wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster acknowledged after practice today. "I can't wait to play our last game of the season and to see what the future holds for us.

"I'm very, very hard on myself, I've always been in everything I do. That's just the nature I put myself in throughout the week. I just come to practice every day, work hard, study hard, and just being out there on the field helps me get through the days."

Smith-Schuster had experienced "literally the worst feeling in the world," in the wake of what happened on the final offensive snap of last Sunday's 16-10 loss to the Jets. He went up for but didn't come down with quarterback Devlin "Duck" Hodges' pass on fourth-and-7 from the Jets' 44-yard line with 44 seconds left in regulation.

"All I can think about is not making that play," Smith-Schuster had maintained at MetLife Stadium. "I make that catch, I go in the end zone, we score, that's it. At the end of the day, the game's on me, it's my fault, sorry, everybody."

Further review of the play on video tape didn't alter Smith-Schuster's perception of what could have taken place.

"I feel I still could have had it," he said today. "It touched the tip of my fingertips. As the person in the moment being there you think of so many other ways, like, what could you have done to win the game for our team? That's how I think of it."

Wide receiver James Washington had gotten two hands on Hodge's third-and-7 throw into the end zone with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but Jets safety Marcus Maye got a hand in and the pass ultimately fell incomplete.

"I kinda let the team down a little bit right there at the end," Washington said then.

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner appreciated how close the Steelers came to stealing the Jets game in the closing seconds, twice.

But Fichtner also insisted one player or one play never wins or loses a game, and didn't in East Rutherford, N.J.

"(Smith-Schuster) is very emotional," Fichtner said. "He would expect to make every play that he could. And in those grand moments he wants to make those plays and it just didn't happen. We didn't collect the snap very well, that all kinda led to probably an errant type of throw.

"James had a shot, no question. I think if you're talking about a wide receiver on a safety downfield, that's a positive situation to be in. You're going to make a lot more plays than you're not, unless your name's Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu. We had shots.

"JuJu wears a lot, wants to win as bad as anybody. He wants to make a lot of plays, I respect him for that. It's never one man, never one play. Hell, the very ball 'Duck' threw the pick on in the end zone (in the second quarter), maybe we throw it to JuJu standing on the sideline, he might run it in for a touchdown. That might have been the difference in the game."

That was the pass that got Hodges benched in favor of Mason Rudolph.

Smith-Schuster understood how that one could have turned out differently, as well.

He's looking forward to better on both ends of the Steelers' passing game in the regular-season finale on Sunday in Baltimore.

"You can be aggressive, just throw it to the right person," Smith-Schuster said. "Look 'Duck,' c'mon, man, we're not playing 'Duck, Duck, Goose.' Throw it to the right person, 'Duck,' let's get it."

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