Tony Peters epitomizes the new Redskin tribe of role players. His specialty is versatility in the defensive backfield.

So far this season Peters has played free safety, strong, some linebacker and, most recently, started at right cornerback in place of the injured Joe Lavender. Yesterday, Peters, obtained from Cleveland during training camp, lined up at Lemar Parish's left cornerback slot as the Redskins began serious drills for Sunday's game in pittsburgh.

Parrish was excused from practice at Redskin Park yesterday and today so he could be home in North Palm Beach, Fla., with his wife Donna, who gave birth to their second child, an eight-pound, one-ounce boy, by Caesarian delivery yesterday.

Peters has shown he can strengthen the Redskin rushing defense, as he did against Houston and in the second game against Philadelphia. And his man-to-man coverage of 6-foot-8 Harold Carmichael kept the Eagle star from catching a pass until the last five minutes.

This week, however he is deployed -- because Lavender is practicing and is expected to start at the right corner -- Peters will be getting reacquainted with Pittsburgh's two fine wide receivers, John Stallworth and Lynn Swann.

"I have kind of strange thinking, I guess, but I have a lot of confidence in myself and things I can do," Peters said. "So it doesn't matter where they put me or what they ask me to do. I just believe that I can do it."

Unlike his teammates, who have only films and perhaps home videotapes to acquaint them with the Steelers, Peters has first-hand knowledge because the Browns are in the AFC Central Division with the Super Bowl champions and Peters played against them twice annually the last four seasons.

At Cleveland, he mostly covered Stallworth, Pittsburgh's leading receiver this season with 41 receptions. He played against Lynn Swann when he was a defensive back at Oklahoma and the Steeler's wide receiver was at Southern California.

The basic difficulty covering Stallworth, Peters said, is the amount of time Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw is given to throw.

"If Bradshaw can throw and get time it will be a real tough day for us," Peters said. "If our defensive line can play the way they've played the last three or four weeks and we can cover pretty well, we should be in pretty good shape.

"They'll run outside moves and go up sometimes, but basically they're just going to run deep crossing patterns, 18 to 20 yards deep and then probably (run) across the field from both sides. It's one of the hardest patterns for a defensive back to cover because it's taking you all the way back across the field and Swann and Stallworth come back to the ball real well.

"Plus, Bradshaw, where he places the ball a lot of times, the receivers are sliding into the ball. It's like low and away, so it makes it difficult for a defensive back to get to it."

Peters said he had never intercepted a Bradshaw pass.

"I sacked Bradshaw once, though. It was a thrill. It was just a regular . . . what they call a lightning blitz here. I just line up outside the tight end and take off at the snap of the ball. He was looking the other way and I got a pretty good hit on him, a blind-side hit."

That Peters, who grew up about 30 miles from the University of Oklahoma campus, is playing pro football is remarkable, since he was a 6-foot-1 1/2, 159 pounder in high school.

He had always thought his sport would be baksetball. But, Peters said, he quit his high school basketball team "four or five times" during his junior year because of racial problems. "It was the coach and everybody," Peters said. "I was the only black on the team. But I don't hold any grudges against anybody now."

Because he was all-state in football, Peters was invited to play in Oklahoma's annual North-South All-Star game. Afterward, he and about a half-dozen other players decided to atten Northeastern A&M, a junior college in Miami, Okla.

There Peters became used to playing different backfield positions. Then he went to Oklahoma, playing the right corner as a junior and the left as a senior. His teams did not lose a game his final three years of college.

It was at Oklahoma that he learned to play the run so well.

"I play strong against the run," Peter said, "because we had to practice against the wishbone at Oklahoma."

An that skinny, 159-pound high school senior had built himeself to about 185.

"If he's 185 he'll stick you like he's 215 because of this chest and legs," Redskin Coach Jack Pardee said. "He has to be able to fend off guards and fullbacks, yet have the speed to cover tight ends and wide receivers.There are not many like him. Ken Houston can do it. It helps to have two in the sam secondary who are so versatile."

Pardee was pleased with the first major workout for the Steelers. "Overall, we've had good workouts all year and this was one of our best . . . Mark Moseley kicked three straight field goals from 53 yards to end practice. He has 48 straight successful extra-point kicks, the longest current streak in the NFL . . . Ted Fritsch got a lot of work at center with the first-team offense because Bob Kuziel is recovering from a hand injury that required stitches.