Dowling absent from Thursday practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- 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.