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Jaguars players: Roethlisberger looked 'tired,' 'older'

Fresh off Sunday's fiery disaster of a football game, Ben Roethlisberger -- swarmed by cameramen and writers wondering what happened in a five-pick, meltdown loss to the Jaguars -- offered the most simple and human theory of all.

The veteran Steelers quarterback struggled Sunday in a way that seemed unusual and concerning for Big Ben, one of the NFL's most reliable stars under center since he was drafted in 2004.

The Heinz Field crowd, raucous boos cascading down on the offense, certainly noticed as Roethlisberger lobbed one killer interception after the next -- and so did the Jaguars.

Jacksonville safety Barry Church recorded one of his team's two pick-sixes on the day and told Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Roethlisberger appeared "flustered."

"Oh yeah, we could definitely tell," Church said. "We were showing him multiple looks. He would go to first look, third look, man, and he would get flustered trying to make one of those miraculous Big Ben plays."

Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who was on hand for Peyton Manning's swan song in Denver, chose his words carefully, saying: "Uh, Ben looks good to me."

Said Jackson: "You could definitely tell he's a little older and he was getting a little tired. To me, he's an elite quarterback, and they've got a really good team. Hope nobody sleeps on the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Those words from Jackson, though, feel more like a nod of respect to Roethlisberger, who unfurled far too many off-kilter throws into coverage on Sunday, with some of them tipped into enemy hands and others simply floating directly into the arms of prowling Jaguars.

It was a game that left fans begging for next Sunday in Kansas City, when the 3-2 Steelers will have the chance to wash this ugly loss from memory and uncover evidence that their longtime signal-caller still has it.

These are questions we didn't expect to ask on an early October day, just weeks into the new season.

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