Steelers Notebook: Suspension not expected to dip below 4 games

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and team president Art Rooney II will meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this morning in New York, but they will not be politicking to have his suspension reduced beyond two games, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has learned.

Reports have suggested that Rooney is accompanying Roethlisberger to the meeting to have his suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy reduced from six games to three games. But that is not the case.

"That door is not open," a source who is familiar with the meeting told the Post-Gazette.

Looking ahead
  • Game: Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons in the season opener, Heinz Field.
  • When: 1 p.m. Sept. 12.
  • TV: WPGH.

The Steelers are expecting Goodell to reduce the suspension to four games and announce his decision today, the source said.

Under terms of the suspension, Roethlisberger has to sit out a minimum of four games and nothing less. The commissioner said he will consider reducing the suspension if Roethlisberger exhibited good behavior and complied with terms of his treatment and counseling.

After playing two series in Thursday night's 19-3 victory against the Carolina Panthers, Roethlisberger stood in the locker room for the last time with his teammates until Oct. 4 -- the day he could return if his suspension is reduced to four games. "It's very tough, kind of emotional right now," he said. "I have to do what I got to do."

Sanders' redemption

Rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders appeared to make up for his mistakes in Denver with several good plays against the Panthers, including a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Against the Broncos, Sanders failed to come back to the ball on several routes, one of which resulted in an interception. He also ran a wrong route that resulted in a 77-yard interception return for touchdown.

"I did really poor last week against the Broncos; I didn't have a good game," Sanders said. "I tried to come out and put an exclamation point on the preseason."

And he did.

Sanders made a nice leaping catch of a Byron Leftwich pass for a 25-yard gain, then followed with an 18-yard catch on the play in which Leftwich injured his left knee in the second quarter.

Three plays later, Sanders gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead when he caught Dennis Dixon's only pass attempt at the Carolina 10 and cut inside cornerback R.J. Stanford for a touchdown. He finished with three catches for 66 catches.

"I wanted to focus on my routes," Sanders said. "The coaches moved me to the [flanker] position and I didn't have a good game. So I got into my playbook this week and wanted to make sure I didn't make the same mistakes twice."

Out of the doghouse

After getting a start last week for injured CB Bryant McFadden -- and subsequently playing poorly and without poise -- Keenan Lewis was replaced at left cornerback in the first-team defense by William Gay. Lewis, though, entered the game in the second quarter and made several nice plays in coverage.

That was a change from last week in Denver when he got turned around on several plays and was benched after two 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. After the game, Lewis further angered Coach Mike Tomlin when he smashed a sign outside the Steelers locker room that shattered the plexiglass casing.

"I just wanted to have fun, that was my goal tonight," Lewis said. "I just wanted to do what I've been doing my whole life. And that's what I did."

Linebacker depth?

Tomlin elected to not dress several starters, including linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison. That forced Lawrence Timmons to start at outside linebacker and Larry Foote and Keyaron Fox to start inside.

That move points up the lack of depth at outside linebacker, a position the Steelers tried to strengthen by drafting Jason Worilds in the second round and Thaddeus Gibson in the fourth. Neither player has progressed well enough to start.

Special teams

Not only did Jeff Reed handle the kickoff duties for the first time since the preseason opener, he made the tackle on the first return. Maybe Daniel Sepulveda is rubbing off on him. Speaking of special teams, Sanders, not Antonio Brown, returned kickoffs and punts in the first half.

Tomlin indicated during the week he wanted to give Brown another chance to win the job as return specialist. Brown returned just one punt in the second half for 23 yards.

First Published September 3, 2010 4:30 AM


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