Big Ben's day short in Steelers' 34-17 loss to Denver; will his suspension be abridged, too?

A quick hook didn't sit well with Ben Roethlisberger.

A shortened suspension, well, that's another story.

Roethlisberger wanted to stay in the game longer than one quarter even though his backups needed the work Sunday night at Denver, where the Broncos rolled to a 34-17 win.

"I was shocked," Roethlisberger said of coach Mike Tomlin's decision to sit him at the start of the second quarter while the rest of the starters stayed in. "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."

Now, Roethlisberger hopes to cut short his backups' regular season workload by having his six-game suspension shortened to four games.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed 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 Goodell reduces the suspension to four games, Roethlisberger will be back for Pittsburgh's game against Cleveland on Oct. 17. Otherwise, he'll be out until the Steelers visit New Orleans on Halloween night.

"I would just assume that I'll sit and talk to him. We'll have good communication and talk and find out things he has to say," Roethlisberger said. "I'm sure he'll want to hear what I want to say and we'll go from there."

Roethlisberger was yanked in the middle of Pittsburgh's second series after the Steelers had gained 97 yards on 11 plays.

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 finished 9 of 16 for 94 yards, two interceptions and a pair of sacks by Robert Ayers.

"He didn't play well," Tomlin said. "And a lot of guys didn't."

Rookie cornerback Perrish Cox picked off one of Dixon's passes 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.

Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton almost had his night shortened by a big hit from linebacker James Harrison.

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."

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. He had mixed results, throwing an interception that set up Jonathan Dwyer's 5-yard TD run and then driving Denver 74 yards in five plays, capped by a 3-yard scoring strike to Eric Decker.

Unlike in his pro debut at Cincinnati when he was hurt on a 7-yard dart into the end zone as time expired, Tebow was a pocket passer on this night with no designed runs or scrambles.

"I'm just trying to do what I'm asked," Tebow said.

Pittsburgh's fourth QB, Charlie Batch, threw a touchdown pass but also a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown by Syd'Quan Thompson.

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.