The Steelers also listed wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (groin) as questionable for the game.
Conner, who made the Pro Bowl with 909 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games, had left doubt about his chances earlier in the week.
“I’m trying, man. It’s day by day,” Conner said Wednesday. “These high ankle sprains are deceiving. I can walk around fine, not limping around, but when I’m out there on the field, cutting and stuff, not ready yet. It’s a reason why we keep [three backs] on the team. We’ve seen Jaylen [Samuels] and [Stevan] Ridley. They are capable. I want to go, but if I’m not feeling like me, I wouldn’t be James Conner and go out there less than ready.”
Guard Ramon Foster said holding out Conner until the playoffs might be best in order to keep him fresh.
Samuels, a rookie, will make his third consecutive start in New Orleans, where Pittsburgh can clinch an AFC North with a win and a Baltimore Ravens loss at the Los Angeles Chargers. Samuels rushed for 142 yards on 19 carries in last weekend’s 17-10 win over the New England Patriots.
Smith-Schuster was limited in Thursday’s practice and declined comment after Friday’s session, in which he did not participate.
Foster said Smith-Schuster was involved in the pre-practice walkthrough, and wide receiver Antonio Brown said, “I think he will be there with us” Sunday.
Smith-Schuster is sixth in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,274 and leads the Steelers in catches with 95. Rookie James Washington, who is coming off a 65-yard performance, would be a candidate to start and will stay ready regardless.
“Just gotta step up and fill the role,” Washington said. “Staying persistent and sticking to it. … I think he will be all right, though.”