The Pittsburgh Steelers' Bubby Brister, angry over his demotion from second-string to third-string quarterback, lashed out yesterday at Coach Chuck Noll, saying he was being punished for refusing to play during the NFL strike.

After being listed behind starter Mark Malone and replacement quarterback Steve Bono on the Steelers' depth charge, Brister said, "I'm the third-string quarterback and we don't even have a third team in practice."

Brister, who speculated the Steelers were making an example of him because he wouldn't cross the picket line with 18 other regulars, said, "I always thought the guy with the most talent was supposed to play, but that's not the way it is around here. Maybe they're trying to make an example out of me . . . I know they're making examples out of guys on a few teams.

"It was quite obvious I beat him {Bono} out in training camp and I'll beat him out again," Brister said. "It wasn't any contest."

"It's just obvious {NFL coaches} are trying to rub some of the players' noses in it by telling them, 'You've made the team once, now you have to make it again,' " said Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association. "I expected coaches to do that. The smart ones aren't doing that. There are some teams that got rid of all their replacement players, or scabs or whatever you want to call them."

The St. Louis Cardinals said they would retain nine replacement players, including quarterback Sammy Garza, dropping 27.

The Buffalo Bills retained 15 players, including quarterback Brian McClure, who helped beat the New York Giants, 6-3, in overtime Sunday.

The Kansas City Chiefs kept seven replacement players, including quarterbacks Doug Hudson and Matt Stevens.

Replacement players who were kept by NFL teams Monday included running back Joe Dudek (Denver Broncos), quarterback Vince Evans (Raiders), quarterback Erik Kramer (Atlanta Falcons), kicker Max Zendejas (Green Bay Packers), defensive lineman Darryl Sims (Cleveland Browns) and former McNamara running back Eddie Hunter (New York Jets) . . .

Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon will be activated this week and may play Sunday against Tampa Bay, Coach Mike Ditka said. McMahon, who had surgery on his shoulder in December, reportedly has thrown well in the four practices the regular Bears have had under coaches' supervision since the players' strike ended.