With less than a minute to play Sunday night, Tyler Palko had a chance to live out a boyhood dream.
Kansas City's back-up quarterback, who threw three interceptions in his first NFL start last Monday at New England, already had tossed two more picks, lost a fumbled snap from center and been booed by the Chiefs' own fans in this effort against the Steelers.
Yet the former University of Pittsburgh star, a 28-year-old non-entity in pro football, persevered through it all and engineered a drive that reached the Steelers 37-yard line with the Chiefs trailing just 13-9, the clock ticking and Arrowhead Stadium rocking with possibility.
Despite Palko's two weeks of misery and the Chiefs' recent offensive nightmare one touchdown in 44 previous drives a TD in the final few seconds would turn everything upside down.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand and had taken a beating from the Chiefs' aggressive defense, could only watch helplessly from the sideline.
Roethlisberger's 2-yard TD pass to Weslye Saunders, a perfect lob to the back of the end zone delivered after Roethlisberger somehow sidestepped a rush like nimble bullfighter, had given the Steelers a 10-3 advantage in the second quarter and they were still hanging on in the final minute.
But things looked tenuous especially since the Steelers had lost Pro Bowl safety Troy Palamalu on the first series of the game, when he suffered concussion-type symptoms after taking a knee to the head while tackling 290-pound lineman Tony Maneri after a short pass.
The Steelers were clinging by their fingernails on the Chiefs' final drive.
"All I could think was, 'Come on, defense! Step up for us one more time,' " Roethlisberger admitted.
And the Steelers did, with some help from miscommunication between Palko and his go-to receiver, Dwayne Bowe.
In the midst of running a route, Bowe threw his hand in the air which Palko believed meant the 6-foot-2 Bowe was going to break off his slant and keep on running toward the corner of the end zone.
Palko fired where he thought Bowe would be, but instead of his dream touchdown, the result was an interception that sailed straight to cornerback Keenan Lewis.
"It was the wrong throw," Palko said, avoiding the issue of Bowe perhaps misleading him. "The bottom line is that it got picked.
"This league isn't for the faint of heart."
The Steelers, now 8-3 and remained tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North, can attest to that after surviving despite several offensive failures that might have put the game away.
The toothless Chiefs, despite a night filled with defensive heroics, lost their fourth straight and essentially fell out of the AFC West race at 4-7.
Oakland's victory over the Bears earlier Sunday boosted the Raiders to 7-4, leaving the Chiefs three games behind with games coming up against the Bears, Jets and Packers over the next three weeks.
Kansas City claimed Kyle Orton off waivers from Denver on Wednesday, but the veteran QB had only one day of practice with his new team so Sunday night belonged to Palko.
"We felt good about Tyler coming into the game," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. "He had good preparation, and did some things well.
"There were some mistakes, but in the end we were just one play away."
After one solid drive using a no-huddle offense that produced a Ryan Succop field goal for a 3-0 lead to start the game, however, it appeared Palko had collapsed completely.
He turned the ball over on three consecutive plays the botched snap and interceptions by Ike Taylor and Ryan Mundy.
The Steelers' Mewelde Moore fumbled the ball right back after one turnover, and then after Taylor returned the first interception to the Chiefs' 8-yard line, the Steelers couldn't convert and settled for tying the game on a chip shot field goal by Shane Suisham.
Pittsburgh did land the telling blow after Munday's pick, however.
It appeared the Steelers had stalled when Roethlisberger was sacked on a third-down play, but Chiefs safety Jon McGraw was called for holding and Pittsburgh capitalized -- with Roethlisberger's sidestep move to escape a sack and his improvised toss to Saunders.
"He was kind of one of the last options," Roethlisberger said. "I saw Wes coming in the back of the end zone, he's kind of a big target (6-5, 270), so I just kind of threw it up to him."
After that, the game turned into a war of attrition, as the Chiefs stuffed the Pittsburgh running game most of the night and with relentless linebacker Tamba Hali popping up everywhere -- they harassed Roethlisberger enough that the Steelers went scoreless in the second half.
Pittsburgh managed just 292 yards of total offense and held the Chiefs to 250.
"We struggled out there," said Roethlisberger, who was 21 of 31 for 193 yards, the TD and an interception. "(Kansas City) has a really good defense and they made it tough. We have to go back and see how we can improve.
"But in this league, it's all about getting a win. The defense saved us."
On the other side, Palko could have been shattered after the early turnovers, but the lefty hung in after his ordeal and eventually completed 18 of 28 passes for 167 yards.
Palko used quick screens and eight completions to Bowe -- leading to a couple more Succop field goals, cutting the lead to 13-9 and setting up the dramatic finish.
As often as Palko had targeted his Pro Bowl receiver, he wasn't close on the last throw once he'd misunderstood Bowe's intentions.
Lewis, meantime, was sitting on the mistake.
"I just read the quarterback. I knew I had help underneath, so I could stay back and protect deep," Lewis said.
"When the ball came out of the quarterback's hand, I saw that Bowe had already made his move. That's when I knew I could make a play."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin readily agreed with his quarterback about results trumping style.
"We're excited about winning -- and winning on the road -- and making the necessary plays," Tomlin said. "We produced turnovers tonight, and that was big for us."
The Steelers uncharacteristically had forced only six turnovers in their first 10 games, but looked more like themselves and saved the game by grabbing four against the Chiefs.
And making the last one count.