Here are 10 matchups worth keeping an eye on in Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game:



PITTSBURGH -- While the Patriots will be thin in the secondary, the Steelers will also be playing significantly short-handed Sunday as star receiver Hines Ward will be out with an ankle injury and veteran linebacker James Farrior will not play due to a calf injury. The team ruled both out Sunday morning, hours before the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff at Heinz Field. 

The Patriots announced Saturday night that safety Josh Barrett has been downgraded to out for Sunday's game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Barrett has been struggling with thumb and hamstring injuries over the last few weeks, and as a result, has seen his playing time take a dip. Over the course of the season, the 26-year-old Barrett has played in four games and has 12 tackles (nine solo). Barrett joins linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb) among the New England players who have already been downgraded to out.

FOXBORO -- The Patriots late Friday afternoon confirmed the release of veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden, just 48 hours before their scheduled showdown with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. The transaction was first reported by ProFootballTalk.com Friday morning, just moments before Bill Belichick's Friday press conference. Belichick said at the time that he would like to "skip" any comment on Bodden's play in 2011.

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 ProFootballTalk.com 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.