Mike Prisuta's Fourth & Goal

Mike Prisuta says the Steelers have looked this bad in the past, yet roared back to win a Super Bowl. He also reports that the Steelers will sign Tyler Palko on Wednesday.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ I should have seen this one coming when "War Paint," the horse that graces the playing surface at Arrowhead Stadium during those always-entertaining, zany Chiefs pregame festivities, took a "break" in the vicinity of the 8-yard line.

Fortunately, there's a guy on the payroll in KC who wields a mean shovel.

Maybe that guy can clean up after the Steelers' kickoff coverage team.

Maybe he has an idea or two about what to do at quarterback.

Maybe I'm overreacting.

Then again, maybe not.

That an overreaction is at least a legitimate temptation at this juncture speaks volumes about the direction in which these Steelers are suddenly headed.

Losing to the Chiefs in the manner in which the Steelers lost is alarming if not foreboding.

I keep thinking back to Mike Tomlin's training camp message to the team, the one that was supposed to set the tone for the season:

"I know you're capable, but what are you willing to do?"

The Steelers' capabilities were evident throughout that come-from-ahead defeat in OT. On offense Ben Roethlisberger repeatedly shed pass rushers the way John Wayne shed Indians. On defense the sacks and a sack-takeaway were delivered precisely when the Steelers needed them. And on special teams the Steelers kicked off four consecutive times without letting a Kansas City return man enter the end zone.

Alas, too many times on offense the ball was turned over, and too many times on defense coverages were misplayed, blown or improperly communicated. As for the special teams, well, you know all about Jamaal Charles by now.

In the aftermath, Deshea Townsend referenced the three-game losing streak in 2005 from which the Steelers emerged humbled and, as it turned out, resolved and ready to rumble all the way through Super Bowl XL. "We have the veteran leadership in here that we know what it takes," Townsend said.

Tomlin also cited his team's character, the "kind of men we got in that locker room," as reason enough to keep the faith.

They're at least maintaining perspective to the extent that the only transactional response to one quarterback having suffered a "concussion-oriented thing" (Roethlisberger) and another QB a broken wrist (Charlie Batch) will be something as non-dramatic as signing Tyler Palko to the practice squad.

Palko has been with New Orleans and Arizona, but but is out of football. Assuming he clears CFL waivers (his rights are currently held by Montreal) he's expected to join the Steelers' practice squad Wednesday afternoon.

The Steelers almost always feel the answers are in the room, and I'm not convinced otherwise just yet. There's still enough season left for willingness to catch up with capability and form a tag-team to be reckoned with in the AFC tournament.

But they might want to get a number for that guy in Kansas City with the shovel, just in case.


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