It's one thing to win a football game on the daring of youth and the emotion of a moment.

It's entirely another thing to keep winning games that way.

The Washington Redskins, on a most unusual ride through the 1985 season, arrive at Three Rivers Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m. prepared for what may end up being the first game of the rest of their football lives.

Transformed from aging veterans teetering on the brink of disaster to earnest underdogs with just about nothing to lose, the Redskins (6-5) -- led by Jay Schroeder now, not Joe Theismann -- face another particularly tough challenge this weekend in the form of the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5).

There very well could be a change at running back as well as quarterback, although that decision was being kept tight in Coach Joe Gibbs' mind this afternoon.

"I'm not gonna say," Gibbs said today when asked if John Riggins, George Rogers or Keith Griffin would be his starter.

But he left a clue.

"I'm gonna wait and see what the weather conditions are, see how the day looks," Gibbs said.

He has never worried about the weather with Riggins as his starter. Now, with an eye toward the sky, it might be that Gibbs is thinking of starting Rogers, nine years Riggins' junior. Rogers has fumbled five times this season; Riggins, three; Griffin, none.

With Schroeder, Mr. X at running back, Gary Clark at receiver, Dan McQuaid back at offensive tackle, Dean Hamel at defensive tackle and Raphel Cherry at strong safety, this is a very green Washington team.

"Everybody's excited," Gibbs said. "We're the underdogs now. I don't think anybody is giving us much of a chance."

Last week, the New York Giants had the best defense statistically in the National Football League. After the Redskins beat them, 23-21, when Theismann went out for the season with a compound fracture of his right leg, the Giants dropped to No. 3.

The Steelers, winners of three in a row and leaders of the AFC Central, replaced the Giants at the top.

"Jay gets to go from one No. 1 defense to another," Gibbs lamented.

Pittsburgh has held five of its 11 opponents to under 100 yards rushing and has given up only 294 yards on the ground in the last four games.

The Redskins, still the only team in the NFL to gain more yards rushing than passing, average 167 yards rushing a game. The Steelers allow 103.

But who's going to be watching the running game?

Today, as he walked out for his final practice of the week at Redskin Park, Schroeder easily shrugged the weight of a team off his shoulders.

"It'll be fun," he said of his starting assignment, the first time someone other than Theismann has started at quarterback for the Redskins since 1980.

"There are no big changes," he continued. "I've studied the game plan. I know what I need to know. The only difference from last week to this is that I'll be taking the snaps."

At his Friday news conference, Theismann said "the impact of the position that (Schroeder) holds may get to him a little bit."

"I would agree with that," Schroeder said. "But I don't think it's anything I can't handle."

"I just hope to God they didn't coach him too much (this week)," said veteran defensive tackle Dave Butz. "The kid came in and did great. He's a natural."

Wide receiver Art Monk, the NFC's third-leading receiver, has returned to the offense. He caught seven passes for 130 yards and has had three consecutive 100-yard games. It's likely Schroeder will try to throw deep more often than Theismann did because his arm is stronger.

The Steelers have had five days to get to know Schroeder, but the Redskins defense has known the Steelers quarterback for almost three years. David Woodley, Miami's quarterback in Washington's 27-17 Super Bowl XVII win, is 3-0 after replacing the injured Mark Malone as the Steelers' starter.

Woodley's completion percentage is just 47.2, and his quarterback rating is below what Theismann's was, but Woodley's presence has settled down a jittery team.

"When we were 3-5 and on the brink of oblivion, it would have been easy to start thinking about next year and going through the motions," Woodley said. "But we didn't. We fought through this and we finally started getting things right."

It helps, of course, to have played Cleveland, Kansas City and Houston.

The Redskins and Steelers last played during the final days of the Steel Curtain. In 1979, en route to their fourth Super Bowl victory in six seasons, the Steelers defeated the Redskins, 38-7. Riggins scored the Redskins' only touchdown.

Now, will he start? Changing times have hit the Redskins, and it's time to see how well they've prepared.

The Redskins almost always play well the Sunday after a Monday night (Gibbs has a 7-0 record following Monday night games), but the Steelers almost always play well at Three Rivers (98-26).

Most important, it's a game of immense importance in the developing playoff race. One more loss for the Redskins and it doesn't look good with only four more games after this one.

"We're in a situation where a guy we've worked on for a long time has to come in and lead us at a critical time," Gibbs said. "Let's see how he does."