James Conner practiced for the first time Friday since suffering an ankle sprain in Week 13, but it remains unclear whether he'll play in Sunday's AFC showdown with the New England Patriots.
Conner is listed as questionable on the Steelers Week 15 injury report after being limited in practice Friday. Coach Mike Tomlin said on Dec. 4 that Conner likely would miss two games because of the injury before saying on Tuesday he wasn't ruling out a potential return for the second-year standout this week.
Conner's absence was acutely felt in Sunday's road loss to the Oakland Raiders. Starting running back Jaylen Samuels compiled just 28 rushing yards on 11 attempts, and veteran backup Stevan Ridley added five carries for four yards and a touchdown. Samuels chipped in seven receptions for 64 yards, but that didn't help their dormant running game.
While Ridley might be hell-bent on having a big game against the team he believes "trashed" him after his torn ACL years ago, Pittsburgh's likely will have to lean heavily on its passing game against the Patriots if Conner can't play.
Conner's return to practice is a good sign, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he had to wait one more week before being healthy enough to play.