The Washington Redskins appeared closer to releasing veteran offensive tackle Joe Patton after Patton played little in tonight's preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. NFL teams must make the first of two rounds of preseason roster cuts on Tuesday.

Before the game, Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said that team officials would evaluate Patton's status after watching him play tonight.

But Kipp Vickers, not Patton, backed up veteran Andy Heck at left tackle. Patton was limited to mop-up duties, and team sources already have indicated that Redskins officials are leaning toward cutting him before the regular season.

"In all cases, we've got decisions to make and we'll look at all the things we need to do," Coach Norv Turner said following the game. I wanted to look at other guys. I know what Joe can do."

Patton, 27, has started 54 regular season games for the Redskins the previous four seasons. He started 10 of the 11 games in which he played last season, and he began training camp this year as the team's starting left tackle.

But club officials seemed intent all along upon making Heck the starter at that position, and the switch was made after Patton missed a blocking assignment early in the Redskins' first preseason game that led to a sack of quarterback Brad Johnson. Turner said then he was upset about Patton's mental mistake, and Heck was the starting left tackle when the Redskins returned to the practice field. Owner Daniel Snyder also criticized Patton's play.

Releasing Patton would leave the Redskins with Vickers, who was signed by the Redskins last season after he was cut by the Indianapolis Colts, backing up Heck. Patton is to count $1.5 million against the salary cap this season, and cutting him perhaps would give the Redskins additional flexibility to pursue other players -- such as retired defensive end Chris Doleman.

"There are a lot of things you have to keep in mind in these decisions," Turner said. "We have to come away with the best 53 guys in terms of playing 16 [regular season] games."

The Redskins traded another veteran tackle, Shar Pourdanesh, to the Steelers earlier in training camp. The Redskins must trim their roster to 65 players Tuesday.

Fryar Kept Out

Turner didn't play veteran wide receiver Irving Fryar tonight. Turner and Cerrato said that Fryar's Redskins unveiling will come in Friday night's preseason finale against Tampa Bay at Redskins Stadium.

"He made enough plays in practice for me to know he can help us and be a real good player," Turner said.

Fryar, the seventh-leading receiver in NFL history, had a week of practices with the Redskins after the team coaxed him out of retirement. He said this week he wanted to play a quarter or so tonight. Turner indicated all along he was wary of playing Fryar in this game because he didn't want to risk an injury.

Extra Points

Cerrato said he had not resumed contract negotiations in recent days with Doleman. Redskins officials have spoken with Doleman and his D.C.-based agent, David Falk, about the possibility of Doleman coming out of retirement to play this season as a pass-rush specialist. Falk has said a deal is possible, but Redskins officials have been frustrated by his asking price of $3 million to $4 million for a one-year contract. Team officials say a deal is unlikely unless Doleman's price tag drops. He had 15 sacks last season for the San Francisco 49ers and ranks fourth on the NFL's career sacks list with 142 1/2. . . .

Reserve linebacker Twan Russell was suffering from dehydration, but Redskins officials said they planned for Russell to accompany the team back to the Washington area late tonight. . . .

Cerrato said he has not had any trade discussions with Seattle regarding holdout wide receiver Joey Galloway. . . .

Redskins officials said they think that tight end Stephen Alexander will resume practicing next week. Alexander missed tonight's game after suffering a sprained knee ligament last week against Buffalo.