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QB Palko assumes new role as Chiefs starter

Tyler Palko has worn the journeyman quarterback tag throughout a pro football career that has spanned six stops since the former West Allegheny High School star left Pitt as an undrafted free agent in 2007.

Finally, Palko can call himself an NFL starting quarterback.

And he might be starting for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Steelers, whose next game after a bye is a Nov. 27 visit to Arrowhead Stadium, which will be televised at 8:20 as the "Football Night in America" game on NBC.

First, Palko will make his first career start on "Monday Night Football" at New England. He replaces Matt Cassel, who suffered a hand injury Sunday against the Denver Broncos that Chiefs coach Todd Haley said will "probably" require surgery and could be season-ending.

"I'm really close with Matt, and we've been through a lot these last two years," Palko said. "You hate to see anybody go down like this, but it's football and you just have to be ready."

Palko completed 5 of 6 passes for 47 yards in the two-minute drill on the Chiefs' final drive Sunday, leading them to a 32-yard Ryan Succop field goal. In his career, Palko is 9 of 13 for 82 yards.

"We feel good about Tyler, or he wouldn't be here as our No. 2 quarterback," said Haley, an Upper St. Clair native. "I have belief in Tyler. In his case, there's not a lot of regular-season action to go on, but I feel like he's done a great job while he's been here of developing and getting better. He has a great understanding of how our offense works and what his role within it is. ...

"Tyler is the next in line, and he's done a terrific job of keeping himself ready. That's what the No. 2 quarterback has to do, because you don't know. At a moment's notice, you could be in there playing, just like any other position."

Haley didn't rule out the possibility of signing a free agent in addition to Palko and rookie Ricky Stanzi, a fifth-round pick from Iowa, but cited Palko's "natural leadership ability" and said he is "optimistic that we have the right guy in place to step in and get things done." The Chiefs (4-5) have lost two consecutive and are in a three-way tie with San Diego and Denver, a game behind Oakland (5-4) in the AFC West playoff race.

The sudden development had Palko's parents, Bob and Sally of Imperial, scrambling to book a trip to see the Chiefs play the Patriots next Monday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., for Tyler's first NFL start.

"It's kind of cool, but we're taking it in stride," Bob Palko said. "You're proud and you hope he's done enough for things (to work out). Everybody has that dream. He's worked hard. It hasn't worked out as he planned or everybody else thought. But it's here."

Bob Palko said he hadn't spoken to Tyler since Sunday and learned the news via ProFootballTalk.com. His mother, Laverne, and sister, Susie Dorman, were at Arrowhead Stadium for the Chiefs' 17-10 loss to the Broncos. Sally Palko has attended several games this season, but Bob's position as West Allegheny's football coach prevented him from going since the preseason.

Since leaving Pitt, where he was a three-year starter, Tyler Palko has spent time with the New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, California Redwoods of the UFL and Montreal Alouettes of the CFL before signing with the Steelers Nov. 25, 2009. He was activated four days later to the 53-man roster for the Baltimore Ravens game, where he served as backup to Dennis Dixon with Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch out with injuries.

Bob Palko is amazed that his son's first start is on "Monday Night Football" against the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.

"Then he has a chance to go against Dick LeBeau and Steelers, Lovie Smith and the Bears and then Rex Ryan and the Jets and then, to top it off, they play the (Super Bowl XLV champion) Green Bay Packers,'' Bob Palko said. "How about that five-game stretch?

"What are you going to do• I just hope I don't lose my dinner."

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