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Unpleasant Memories

The Redskins' loss to the Steelers Monday night evoked recollections of a darker time in team history.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Settling for three (or zero) instead of six.  Checkdown after checkdown.  Pre-snap penalties.  Missed tackles.  Questionable coverage schemes.  Ryan Kerrigan failing to recover a fumble he had in his hands.

Have the 2016 Redskins become the 2014 Redskins?

Deep breath.  You know the drill.  It's only one game.  Blah, blah, blah.  But . . . that looked to me like a major regression, at least back to the pre-Bucs Washington from last year.  Maybe worse.

Most disturbingly, Kirk Cousins looked dull and occasionally confused.  The Steelers were content to stay back in a soft zone coverage most of the night, seldom blitzing.  Cousins sometimes appeared not to know what to do with the luxury of all that time.  Even when he found open men, passes were often low or behind the receivers.

That, coupled with the penalties and general sloppiness at points, raises the question of whether the problems stem from the Redskins' decision to play their top players so sparingly during preseason.  Maybe, although I generally agree with that philosophy, because the major priority in preseason should be to keep players healthy.

Even if the Redskins were "rusty," that can't explain things like the now-much-discussed decision not to flip coverage to allow Josh Norman to match up with Steelers superstar Antonio Brown.

No, what we saw Monday was a team that appeared to carry over none of its momentum from the second half of 2015.  Instead, we witnessed a performance similar to the playoff loss to Green Bay: A squandered opportunity to take control early, followed by dominance from the other team, then a score to preserve some false hope, concluding with the crushing reality of a lopsided final margin.

All of which happened at home against a Pittsburgh squad missing a couple of major offensive contributors.

If there's any optimism to be salvaged, it's that the Steelers should be one of the better teams in the NFL this year.

Nevertheless, the Redskins now face a pressure-packed battle with Dallas.  Defeat would mean an 0-2 start with two home losses, and guaranteed sole possession of the NFC East basement.

The last time Washington started a season 0-2 and still managed to make the playoffs was 1984.  That year, the Redskins opened the season against the Dolphins and 49ers, the two teams that would wind up in the Super Bowl.  Washington lost both games, but still took the NFC East with an 11-5 record.

This year's Redskins might not be so fortunate.  I loathe "Chicken Little" proclamations in September, but I have to admit: With a brutal second-half schedule still looming, going 0-2 at home to open the year would be a major step toward a disappointing 2016.  Already.

Luckily, the Cowboys aren't as good as the Steelers.

Unluckily, the Cowboys still might be better than the Redskins.

We'll find out Sunday.