QB or Not QB? Palko the Latter

Tyler Palko is one of Pitt's all-time great QBs and a member of one of the first families of football in Western Pa. But Mike Prisuta says he has no business in the NFL.

It was all about Sidney Crosby on Monday night in Pittsburgh, but eventually the epic comeback game at the CONSOL Energy Center ended and an opportunity to watch a little football presented itself.

As it turned out, a little football was all that was necessary.

It didn't take much more than a quarter or so of Kansas City at New England to confirm that Tyler Palko is still Tyler Palko.

The Steelers are probably salivating over that as we speak.

Palko remains as gritty and competitive as they come. And yes, he's a coach's son who oozes a knowledge of and appreciation for the game and other such intangibles. But he can't throw. That's bad if you're trying to be a quarterback. His arm strength was an issue in college, one that Palko was able to overcome well enough to lead Pitt to monster victories over the likes of West Virginia and Notre Dame and, eventually, deliver Pitt to a BCS game.

But in the NFL there's just no overcoming the pop gun Palko is packing in what has become a howitzer league.

All of the intangible simply aren't enough when your arm isn't as strong as that of Marcel Pastoor, the Steelers' conditioning assistant.

We know that's the case because Palko had a cup of coffee with the Steelers in 2009, actually serving as Dennis Dixon's backup in that 20-17 overtime loss at Baltimore.

Palko can read a defense and figure out where the ball is supposed to go; he just can't get it there in a timely enough fashion.

That was confirmed once again on Monday night in New England, when Palko made his first NFL start and wound up with three interceptions and a passer rating of 49.9 to show for it.

It wasn't the circumstances of the moment. The stage wasn't too big for Palko, as Mike Tomlin might have said. The problem was that Palko, who is listed by the Chiefs at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, was physically unable to perform. And that's why they had to pick up Kyle Orton.

Tomlin wouldn't go there in assessing the QB the Steelers will be facing on Sunday night at Kansas City.But what Tomlin said regarding Palko during an oh-so-brief media briefing on Tuesday afternoon spoke volumes. "We are familiar with him. He's been a part of us. He's a Pittsburgh guy," Tomlin offered in a careful critique of the former West Allegheny High School and Pitt star. "What we do know about Tyler is that he's an extremely sharp football guy. He's a very quick study. He's very good above the neck. He makes good decisions." Tomlin might as well have said the fat chick has a great personality.

Palko actually has one of those. He's always been as likeable off the field as he has been a try-hard guy on the field. He'll forever be remembered fondly at Pitt, and justifiably so. But since leaving Pitt he's been with New Orleans, Arizona, the Steelers and Kansas City. And Palko has yet to convince any of those part-time employers that he's an actual NFL quarterback.

In his second season with the Chiefs and with all of five NFL appearances under his belt following Monday night's 34-3 loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots, Palko has yet to throw a touchdown pass in the NFL. They could still be playing up in Foxborough, Mass., and Palko still wouldn't have thrown one against what statistically is the NFL's worse defense.

For Palko there's nowhere to go but up -- except, perhaps, on to his life's work once he tires of trying to stiff-arm the inevitable realization that he's taken this football thing about as far as it can go.


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