DENVER » Ben Roethlisberger gave way to his backups after a quick night’s work. Now, he can get ready to make his case for a shortened suspension, too.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed during Denver’s 34-17 win over Pittsburgh last night that commissioner Roger Goodell and the Steelers quarterback will meet soon, but he declined to say when or where the meeting would take place.
Roethlisberger was suspended for six games after being accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia college student in March. He was not criminally charged in the case.
If Roethlisberger’s suspension is reduced to four games, he’ll be back for their game against Cleveland on Oct. 17. Otherwise, he’ll be out until the Steelers visit New Orleans on Halloween night.
"I hope it’s a good meeting," Roethlisberger said. "Right now it’s been all about football for me. I haven’t had time to think too much about it because I’m not really sure even when it’s going to be. For me, it’s about just focusing on football and what I need to do to get ready for the next game, which is Carolina."
Roethlisberger played just one quarter and was yanked in the middle of Pittsburgh’s second series.
"I was shocked," Roethlisberger said of coach Mike Tomlin’s quick hook. "It was the end of the quarter and he said I was done. I still wanted to go in, but he wasn’t going to have it."
Tomlin had some evaluation to do.
Dennis Dixon has started only one NFL game, and he is expected to be Byron Leftwich’s backup when the season starts and Roethlisberger’s suspension begins. So, he got his first significant playing time with the starters.
Dixon threw two costly interceptions.
Rookie cornerback Perrish Cox picked off the first one in the end zone and Andre’ Goodman returned Dixon’s second interception 77 yards for a touchdown with 11 seconds left in the second quarter that gave Denver a 17-3 halftime lead.
Dixon finished 9-for-16 for 94 yards, two interceptions and two sacks by Robert Ayers.
Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton was shaken up in the first half and left the game briefly after taking a hit from linebacker James Harrison.
Orton tried to make the tackle after Harrison picked up a loose ball and rumbled toward the end zone in the second quarter. Orton tried to tackle him low, but Harrison put his helmet down and hit Orton on the back of the head and his left shoulder.
"I don’t know if I went after him or he went after me," Orton said. "You have to try to save a touchdown and took a pretty decent shot, yeah. Just got the wind knocked out of me. Felt pretty good afterward."
Orton said it was obvious that Harrison went down to meet him head on, however.
"If that’s the way he wants to play, then that’s the way he wants to play," Orton said.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels stopped just short of calling Harrison’s hit a cheap shot.
"It kind of looked like Harrison knew he was going to go low and then he took the liberty to go ahead and go after the quarterback," McDaniels said. "Whether or not it was a cheap thing, I’m not sure. I’ll have to see it on film, but it didn’t look right."
Harrison said it was just a smart football move.
"I was being aggressive on the play," Harrison said. "I play aggressively. I was going to the ground and wanted to get as many yards as I could."
Brady Quinn replaced Orton and was sacked on the next snap. Orton returned to the game on the Broncos’ next series.
Rookie Tim Tebow made his home debut for Denver after missing last week’s game with bruised ribs.
Although Tebow saved the touchdown with a tackle at the 5 on Crezdon Butler’s 40-yard interception return, Jonathan Dwyer (89 yards on 13 carries) took it in from there to cut it to 20-10 in the fourth quarter.
Tebow quickly atoned, driving Denver 74 yards in five plays, capped by a 3-yard TD strike to fellow rookie Eric Decker.
Broncos 34, Steelers 17
Den–White 2 run (Prater kick), 11:19.
Pit–FG Reed 33, 8:11.
Den–FG Prater 39, 2:35.
Den–Goodman 77 interception return (Prater kick), :11.
Den–FG Prater 29, 1:45.
Pit–Dwyer 5 run (Reed kick), 12:34.
Den–Decker 3 pass from Tebow (Prater kick), 10:05.
Pit–Brown 7 pass from Batch (Reed kick), 7:04.
Den–Thompson 48 interception return (Prater kick), 3:59.
RUSHING–Pittsburgh, Dwyer 13-89, Dixon 3-33, Mendenhall 5-28, Redman 3-11, Moore 4-10, Randle El 1-3, Vincent 1-1. Denver, Ball 10-75, White 12-34, Hall 5-15, Fargas 1-4.
PASSING–Pittsburgh, Dixon 9-16-2-94, Roethlisberger 4-6-0-67, Batch 3-4-1-44, Leftwich 0-4-0-0. Denver, Orton 9-14-1-80, Tebow 5-10-1-72, B.Quinn 1-2-0-2.
RECEIVING–Pittsburgh, Wallace 3-59, Ward 3-19, Sanders 2-27, Moore 2-25, Brown 2-17, Vincent 1-20, Johnson 1-16, Grisham 1-13, Spaeth 1-9. Denver, Lloyd 4-40, Willis 3-55, Royal 3-36, Gaffney 2-8, Ball 1-10, Decker 1-3, Hall 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS–None.