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Ras-I Dowling (hip) misses practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots cornerback Ras-I Dowling (hip) missed his first practice of the week on Thursday, joining linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb) as the only players not present for the workout, which was held inside the team's fieldhouse due to rainy conditions.

Dowling, who has not played since Week 2 and did not practice during the Patriots' bye week, was a limited participant in Wednesday's session, and was present for the team's Tuesday practice. His absence at Thursday's practice, which was held in light shoulder pads, could mean the second-round pick has suffered a setback in his injury recovery.

If Dowling is unable to play on Sunday in Pittsburgh, the team will likely again turn to Kyle Arrington, who is tied for second in the NFL with four interceptions, as one of their top cornerbacks.

Fletcher has not practiced since Oct. 14, playing just one defensive snap in the team's win over the Cowboys on Oct. 16.

Among those limited at Thursday's practice, according to the participation report, were safety Josh Barrett (thumb), cornerback Leigh Bodden (thumb), running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe), defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth (back), linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee) and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer (back). All six players were also limited at Wednesday's practice.

For the Steelers, linebacker Jason Worilds (quadricep), who did not participate in Wednesday's practice, was a limited participant in Thursday's practice. Meanwhile, linebacker James Harrison (eye), offensive linemen Chris Hoke (neck) and Doug Legursky (toe), and wide receiver Hines Ward (ankle) did not participate. Linebacker James Farrior (calf) again had limited participation.

Mike Rodak is a frequent ESPNBoston.com contributor.