KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ben Roethlisberger threw a short touchdown pass to Weslye Saunders and the Pittsburgh Steelers took advantage of three turnovers by Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko to maintain a 13-6 lead after three quarters Sunday night.
Making his second consecutive start in place of the injured Matt Cassel, Palko fumbled a snap and then threw interceptions to Ike Taylor and Ryan Mundy on consecutive plays in the first half. The journeyman quarterback also threw three picks in last week's 34-3 loss at New England.
Palko's first interception, which Taylor returned to the Chiefs 8 on the final play of the first quarter, resulted in a tying 21-yard field goal by the Steelers' Shaun Suisham.
The second pick was returned by Mundy, playing in place of injured safety Troy Polamalu, to the Kansas City 24. The defense appeared to hold Pittsburgh when Tamba Hali sacked Roethlisberger on third-and-7, but safety Jon McGraw was called for defensive holding to give the Steelers a first down.
Three plays later, Roethlisberger found Saunders in the back of the end zone for the score.
Ryan Succop added a 49-yard field goal later in the second quarter for Kansas City, his second of the game, but Suisham answered with his own 49-yarder on the final play of the first half.
Polamalu left the game in the first quarter when he tackled 290-pound Chiefs offensive tackle Steve Maneri, who had caught a pass in the flat after lining up in the backfield.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year's head hit Maneri's knee and he crumpled to the turf, where he lay while trainers came out to check on him. Polamalu was a bit wobbly when he stood up and the team said he was questionable to return with a "blow to the head."
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey also left in the first half with an illness.
Roethlisberger showed little evidence of a broken thumb on his throwing hand that caused him to be somewhat limited in practice, and could have kept him out had the Steelers not had a bye last week.
The former Pro Bowl quarterback was 20 of 27 for 184 yards and the touchdown pass to Saunders, the first of the rookie tight end's career. Roethlisberger also endured plenty of pressure from the Chiefs' defense, which kept them in the game despite Palko's shaky performance at quarterback.
The Steelers squandered a promising opportunity in the first quarter, driving inside the Chiefs 10-yard line. But backup running back Mewelde Moore had the ball poked out by Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali and it was recovered by Javier Arenas in the end zone for a touchback.
Kansas City gave the ball right back when Palko fumbled the snap moments later.
Pittsburgh also had a decent drive end midway through the scoreless third when Roethlisberger underthrew Antonio Brown down the sideline. Kansas City safety Travis Daniels swooped in to make the interception, but the Chiefs' bumbling offense couldn't capitalize.
The Chiefs claimed former Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton off waivers on Wednesday with the intention of having him compete with Palko for the starting job. But Orton didn't arrive in town until Friday, though, and he was inactive Sunday night after participating in only one practice.