Big Ben, Steelers fall to Broncos
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 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-of-16 for 94 yards, two interceptions and a pair of sacks by Robert Ayers.
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.''
While Orton was down, the officials huddled and ruled the play was an incomplete pass. Brady Quinn replaced Orton and was sacked on the next snap. Orton returned to the game on the Broncos' next series.
Orton finished 9-for-14 for 80 yards with one interception, by William Gay.
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.
And Charlie Batch responded to that with a TD drive that made it 27-17 on Antonio Brown's 7-yard scoring grab. But Batch's next drive resulted in a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie Syd'Quan Thompson that gave Denver a 34-17 lead.
Minutes later, Thompson returned a punt 62 yards.
Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior left the game after suffering a head laceration in the first quarter that required several stitches. Farrior's helmet went flying when he helped stuff running back LenDale White for no gain on second-and-goal at the 2.
White scored a touchdown on the next play, his first for his hometown team that brought him into camp after injuries to Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, neither of whom has played in the preseason.
White, who will begin this season on a month-long suspension for violating the league's drug policy, is trying to revive his career that has hit speed bumps in Tennessee and Seattle, where his college coach, Pete Carroll, dumped him this summer.
''There's so many emotions going through me right now,'' White said. ''I don't know if I want to smile or cry. This is real and I'm happy to be home in Denver. I think about my grandmother every day. If she was still alive, it would be crazy what she'd be doing right now. I'm so happy to be on the field with a team that wants me.''