PITTSBURGH -- It was a big night for understudy quarterbacks at Three Rivers Stadium last night.
Perhaps the one bright moment for the Washington Redskins in a 16-7 preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was the play of reserve quarterback Cary Conklin.
Like the Steelers' Neil O'Donnell, Conklin hadn't played a football game since 1989, when he finished up his college career at the University of Washington.
Last night Conklin played two series of the second quarter after Mark Rypien played two series in the first. He completed six of nine passes for 89 yards, throwing for the Redskins' only score in the game. In the two-minute offense, he took the Redskins 78 yards in seven plays, three of them completions to rookie running back Ricky Ervins.
Ervins had receptions of 29 and 12 yards before catching a 19-yard touchdown pass to give Washington a 7-3 halftime lead.
Although coach Joe Gibbs was less than happy with the Redskins' performance overall, he couldn't help but be pleased by Conklin.
"He's made the most of every opportunity he's had," Gibbs said. "He's had a good training camp. Coaches tend to have more patience with guys who do good things in camp."
And if the reverse is true, Gibbs may be losing patience with backup Stan Humphries, who had three passes deflected at the line of scrimmage in his two series last night. Humphries was only 3-for-8 for 38 yards.
Rypien, the team's starter, was 3-for-8 for 74 yards, and veteran Jeff Rutledge was a feeble 2-for-8 for 11 yards.
Even when the Redskins' offense moved into scoring position, they were unable to capitalize. Place-kicker Chip Lohmiller, who was good on eight of nine field goals in preseason scrimmages, missed on field goals of 41 and 24 yards. Both were wide right.
The Redskins lost cornerback A.J. Johnson for four to six weeks with a dislocated lunate bone in his right wrist. Cornerback Alvoid Mays also went out of last night's game with a mild concussion . . . Former Maryland star O'Donnell wasn't the only local playing for the Steelers. Rookie tight end Bruce McGonnigal, who attended Loyola High in Baltimore, caught one pass from O'Donnell for 10 yards and a first down . . . The Steelers had two first-half touchdowns erased by penalties.