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Chiefs QB Palko hopes for memorable game

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By Scott Brown
Friday, Nov. 25, 2011

The journeyman quarterback that will always call Pittsburgh home faces players he once looked up to and later called teammates, if only briefly.

"It's going to be an interesting experience," Tyler Palko said of Kansas City's Sunday night game against the visiting Steelers.

The West Allegheny High and Pitt product hopes it's a memorable one for the right reasons, though he's well aware that plenty could go wrong.

Palko's second career start will come against a defense that is to inexperienced quarterbacks what offensive linemen are to all-you-can-eat buffets.

Adding to the challenge of beating the heavily favored Steelers: Palko, who completed 66 percent of his passes but threw three interceptions Monday night in New England, will be playing for his starting job.

The Chiefs claimed former Denver quarterback Kyle Orton off waivers Wednesday, and he's expected take over at quarterback sooner rather than later.

Not that the addition of Orton, who has 66 career starts, is likely to faze Palko.

The well-traveled lefty has overcome too much just to get to this point. Palko, who's with his sixth professional team and fourth NFL organization, credits his father, Bob, and his upbringing in Western Pennsylvania for guiding him through a trying and uncertain journey.

"At an early age, my father never let me quit anything," said Palko. "Whether it was playing an instrument, which I was terrible at, I still had to finish the year out at it. Growing up in Pittsburgh, being tough, learning how to handle adversity, that's all part of it.

"Not saying I never had bad days, where I was ticked off and mad and frustrated. But if it was something I wanted to do, then this was the process, and you can't look forward to the end result. Every day, you have to wake up, try it again, and do it again and keep pushing forward."

Palko, 28, has been a picture of perseverance.

He has played in just five NFL games since signing with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent in 2007, and his resume lists a stint with the California Redwoods of the United Football League.

It also includes a stop in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers signed Palko in 2009, after injuries sidelined Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch, and he suited up for a game in Baltimore.

"He was a big-time competitor," Roethlisberger said of Palko, "really, really smart; learned the offense real quick."

Palko, who threw for 8,343 yards and 66 touchdowns at Pitt, has numerous ties to the Steelers.

His younger brother, Luke, served as a scouting intern with the Steelers before moving on to Arizona. Palko, meanwhile, has known some of the Steelers players and coaches for years, having shared a practice facility with them when he was at Pitt.

"We think the world of him, and I have a high appreciation of his talent," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "His dad has been a great high school coach in this area for a long time. It's a great athletic family, and I'm not really looking forward to facing him to be honest with you."

Not that Palko is expecting any favorable treatment from LeBeau or has any illusions about facing a LeBeau-led defense.

"I know he is one of the best, if not the best, defensive minds in all of football," said Palko, who celebrated Thanksgiving with his parents in Kansas City. "When you are together like they are, for a long time, they know where each other is going to be, they are a very cohesive unit and they play well together."

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