Big Ben plays sparingly in loss

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 on Sunday that commissioner Roger Goodell and the Steelers quarterback will meet soon, but he declined to say when or where.

Roethlisberger was suspended for six games after being accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia college student in March. He was not criminally charged.

If Roethlisberger’s suspension is reduced to four games, he’ll be back 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.”

Roethlisberger played 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.

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.

Harrison said it was just a smart football move.

“I play aggressively,” he said. “I was going to the ground and wanted to get as many yards as I could.”

While Orton was down, the officials huddled and ruled the play an incomplete pass. Brady Quinn replaced Orton and was sacked on the next snap. Orton returned to the game on the Broncos’ next series.

Tim Tebow made his home debut for Denver after sitting out last week with bruised ribs. He went 5-for-10 for 72 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He drove Denver 74 yards in five plays for a score, throwing 3 yards to fellow rookie Eric Decker.

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