10-3 win is pleasing to Petitbon Redskins weather Steelers 'barometer'

August 23, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- For the average fan, it was just another dreary, low-scoring exhibition game.

Coach Richie Petitbon had a different view after backup quarterback Cary Conklin directed the Washington Redskins to a 10-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers before 51,086 fans at Three Rivers Stadium.

Petitbon thought it was a harbinger of good things to come.

"I really felt that this game was going to be a barometer of our season," he said. "I knew it was going to be a very tough, physical game. I have a lot of respect for the Steelers. I knew we were going to be tested tonight. I think this could be a nice little steppingstone for us. I'm really happy with the win."

Petitbon didn't care about winning the first two exhibition games, which the Redskins split, but he had a different attitude about this one.

"This was a big game for us. We still played a lot of people, [but] we wanted to win this football game," he said. "The first two HTC games we really didn't care. I think a win was important for us tonight and, hopefully, we can build on it. I know Pittsburgh is going to be a good football team and I know this is the type of team we're going to have to beat if we're going to be competitive."

The score was tied 3-3 in the fourth period when Conklin directed a nine-play, 43-yard drive in 3:27 that was climaxed by Reggie Brooks' 4-yard touchdown run.

Except for that drive, which featured a critical holding penalty on Larry Griffin on a second-and-10 play at the Pittsburgh 10, this was a defensive struggle.

Pittsburgh had two more chances to tie it and send it into overtime. The first time, Pat Eilers forced a Rick Strom fumble and former Maryland defensive end Ralph Orta, who also had a sack in the game, recovered it on the Washington 18.

After Marc Woodward hit Conklin to cause a fumble that Chad Brown recovered on the Washington 24, rookie Lamont Hollinquist came up with two sacks, including one on fourth down that wrapped up the game, one play after Darryl Morrison knocked down a pass in the secondary.

For Hollinquist and Orta, young players who have to be worried about the mandatory cut to 60 players tomorrow, the big plays were important.

"Coach Petitbon told me he was going to put me in situations where I could just go after the quarterback," Hollinquist said. "If I keep making big plays like I did tonight, I think I'll have a pretty good chance [to make it]. It gives you a little extra edge. It's either do or die. You don't want to die so you have to do."

Orta, who's already been cut once and is a long shot, said: "I just want to show I'll make some plays and will make it happen out there if I'm given a chance."

Quarterback Mark Rypien, who played the first half and the first series of the second half, faced a fierce pass rush and put only a field goal on the board, but Petitbon was pleased with his effort.

"I thought Ryp looked good. At times, he was fighting for his life. I thought they put tremendous pressure on us. He took a beating. It's not something we wanted. He did a good job," Petitbon said.

It didn't help Rypien that Tim McGee dropped a long pass. Rypien said McGee told him a defender pulled his hand.

"Those are the breaks," Rypien said.

But offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower said: "That should have been caught."

Petitbon wasn't pleased with the pass protection.

"We're not happy with that. We have to take a long look [at it]. We're going to have to do a better job of protecting our quarterback," he said.

Except for Brooks, who gained 32 yards in nine carries the running game sputtered. Brian Mitchell got only 29 yards in 14 carries.

Although Petitbon said the running game may have taken a step

back, he added: "I think we made some runs that were OK. I think we were playing against real good defenses."

Petitbon liked Conklin's performance.

"He definitely stepped up over last week," he said.

Conklin said the trade for veteran Rich Gannon last week didn't affect him one way or the other.

"There's always going to be competition. You just have to be a competitor and play at your best," he said.

One player who wrapped up a job -- unless another solid veteran becomes available -- was veteran punter Kelly Goodburn. He averaged 44.6 yards in five kicks. Rookie Ed Bunn was supposed to punt in the last quarter, but the Redskins didn't have any punts in that quarter.

Special-teams coach Wayne Sevier said he "wouldn't argue" with the thesis that Goodburn had beaten out Bunn.

Overall, the Redskins felt it was another step toward the the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks from tonight.

Cornerback Darrell Green said: "We're still playing a lot of people, but as a whole, the nucleus of our team played the nucleus of their team. I feel pretty good about it. We're in a building process. We've got one more week to build and move into the house on Sept. 6."

NOTES: Three players -- TE Terry Orr, OL Raleigh McKenzie and LB Monte Coleman -- suffered back injuries believed to be minor. . . . Three defensive linemen -- Tim Johnson (ribs), Jason Buck (ribs) and Shane Collins (shoulder), didn't play. Collins has yet to play in the exhibition season and his injury appears more serious than the Redskins first thought.

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