It's the second week of preseason, the lights don't work at RFK Stadium, a good many first-round draft choices around the league haven't signed yet, and every veteran in his right mind wants to renegotiate, at least until two-a-days end.

You don't want to put too much credence in Joe Gibbs worrying in August, but when he said after last night's victory over the Steelers that Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien was "way off" and that he is very concerned, you had to take him seriously. His assessment might have been kind.

Gibbs saw a lot that pleased him, including the play of his injury- and holdout-depleted defensive line and his special teams. The offense, specifically the play of Rypien, has his stomach churning.

The Redskins, even with Fred Stokes healthy and Darryl Grant signed, will probably be an offensive team this season. No team in the NFL has a receiving group as good as Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders. No NFL team has as proven and as complete a running back contingent as Gerald Riggs, James Wilder, Earnest Byner and Kelvin Bryant.

A quarterback with that much firepower doesn't have to be Joe Montana; he doesn't even have to be great. He just has to be reasonably sharp and stay away from the big slumps and costly turnovers. Rypien threw two interceptions and fumbled once -- a teammate recovered -- against Pittsburgh and he played only three quarters of the game.

As a result of that, plus a second mysterious performance by the running game, the Redskins offense stunk. Yes, it is the second game of the preseason. Yes, the Redskins have plenty of time to work things out before the real season begins. But the worried look Gibbs wore last night wasn't one of those unnecessary paranoid looks NFL coaches sport from dawn until dusk.

"I felt like our offense wanted to play. But that's about as bad as we've played," he said, not exaggerating a bit. Don't let the 27 points fool you; 14 were gifts from the Steelers (after Bubby Brister had left the game). "We kept turning it over and not making plays. Our defense took it upon themselves tonight and that's great. And special teams is your heart. But the offense . . . I'm as concerned as you can be. We've turned it over six or seven times in two games.

"Part of it -- that isn't playing smart football. We wanted to play well, but when you turn the ball over you make yourself look so bad. It's a bad sign, we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a long ways to go, particularly offensively."

The interceptions were especially frustrating, because neither pass was particularly difficult. One was a five-yard out to Bryant, "but I threw it behind him," Rypien said. "That's not what we're looking for. The other ball, I just threw down the middle of the field. They coach against that, they preach against it, and I still did it."

Rypien, to his everlasting credit, doesn't make excuses after bad games. He doesn't get surly like Jay Schroeder used to. He blames himself. "I tried to get back there and make something happen, and in the process I wasn't," he said. "I didn't show up in the second half. I've got to be more intense and work myself out of this jam. Especially when things go bad an NFL quarterback has to pull himself and his team out of a rut and I didn't do that."

Gibbs was just as blunt in his assessment: "I feel like Mark is way off and he knows that. He's playing poorly and you've got to work your way out of it. Stan {Humphries} was closer than Mark . . . Mark had a real off night."

So the question begs asking: Is there a quarterback controversy in Washington? Not yet. It's a quarterback controversy in waiting. Rypien played very well against five non-playoff teams at the end of last season, but when it mattered earlier, he wasn't especially impressive. The bottom line is, Rypien still has to prove himself. And Humphries is a legitimate contender for the No. 1 spot, if not now then a little bit down the road.

In some ways, the lack of production from the ground game is as disconcerting to the team as Rypien's performance. Rypien was okay against the Falcons; the rushing game has been dismal in both preseason affairs. Last night's effort was slightly better, 26 carries for 81 yards.

But the big guns -- Riggs and Wilder -- gained only 30 yards on 11 carries. Despite a fumble that turned into a touchdown, rookie Brian Mitchell had the most impressive evening carrying the football (eight rushes, 45 yards). Someone asked Gibbs, "How do you assess Mitchell, since he ran well but fumbled?" The coach answered, "That's about how I look at it, he ran well but fumbled."

Still, Mitchell has been the offensive bright spot of the preseason, what with his 92-yard kick return for a touchdown last week. "He promised me coming off the field {after the fumble} that he's never going to fumble again."

Overall, Gibbs sounded mystified about the lack of a rushing attack. "We feel very good about our offensive line," he said. "We feel very good about our runners . . . But we're not running the ball like we want to."

Rypien might have offered some hint as to why not. "Two things you look for are surge from the line, then to sustain {the blocks}. We've got the surge, as you could see," he said. Toward the end of the game when Mitchell gained his yards, "we began to sustain better," said Rypien.

Only four days of camp remain. The Redskins have known for a while now that they are working with a patchwork defensive line (which pressured efficiently and played very well Friday). Troubles on the other side of the ball, however, are definitely more surprising.