FOXBORO -- Linebacker Dane Fletcher was the first Patriots player to be ruled out for Sunday's game in Pittsburgh, as he missed all four practices this week with a thumb injury. Rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling is listed as doubtful with a hip injury. Dowling was limited in the Patriots full-pads practice on Wednesday and then missed practice on Thursday and Friday. The Pats have five other players listed as questionable, including running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe) and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (back).

The Patriots announced on Saturday that they have activated running back Kevin Faulk and defensive end Brandon Deaderick from the reserve/physically unable to perform list and placed them on their 53-man roster in advance of their game on Sunday at Pittsburgh. 

To make room for the additions, the Patriots place rookie corner Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve and released corner Leigh Bodden on Friday. Dowling injured his hip and has not played since Week Two.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Friday at noon for his weekly appearance. King gave his thoughts on the Patriots reportedly cutting cornerback Leigh Bodden in a surprise move.

"I think its extremely surprising and I have no clue why it happened," King said. "My gut reaction was it has to go down as one of the worst free agent signings the Patriots have ever had, because they signed him obviously after that good year in '09. Then obviously he gets hurt and misses last year, in essence. And this year, never really plays well."

FOXBORO --  Cornerback Ras-I Dowling and linebacker Dane Fletcher were the only players not at Patriots practice on Friday inside Gillette Stadium. Leigh Bodden was not on hand after reportedly being released earlier in the day. Bodden still had his name on his locker stall inside the Patriots locker room prior to practice on Friday morning. 

Only minutes after reports surfaced that the Patriots released cornerback Leigh Bodden, safety Patrick Chung joined the Mut & Merloni show for his weekly interview.

Chung deflected multiple questions about Bodden's release.

"It's not my decision," he said. "It's not my place to talk about that stuff. Whoever's here, we're going to play with whoever's here. … He's a good player, good person. That's all I can say on that. You can ask coach [Bill Belichick] about all those questions."

FOXBORO -- According to a report, the Patriots have released cornerback Leigh Bodden.

At his Friday morning press conference, coach Bill Belichick said, "We don't have any announcements to make right now," but when asked to comment on Bodden's play, he said: "We'll skip that right now."

The 30-year-old Bodden has played eight seasons in the NFL, including two with the Patriots. He had 17 tackles and four passes defended in five games (one start) this season.

FOXBORO -- As far as Vince Wilfork is concerned, he just wants to play.

FOXBORO -- Ras-I Dowling joined linebacker Dane Fletcher on the list of players missing Patriots practice Thursday inside the Dana-Farber Field House. Fletcher missed practice for a third straight day, out with a thumb injury, while Dowling, who was limited in Wednesday's full-pads practice, missed with a hip injury. The Pats had six other players who were limited, including running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe) and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (back).

FOXBORO -- Patriots rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling was not spotted at the start of practice inside the Dana Farber Field House on Thursday as the team continued its preparation for the Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh. Dowling has not played since Week 2 against San Diego and has been inactive in three of the last four games with a hip injury. 

Dowling returned to practice on Tuesday and worked out in full pads on Wednesday before missing Thursday. Also missing for the third straight day was linebacker Dane Fletcher, who has been nursing a thumb injury. 

FOXBORO -- There are several reasons why the Patriots and Steelers have maintained an extended level of excellence over the years, but a sizable portion of their success can be traced back to the stable quarterback/coach relationship on each team.