One day after making his return to the practice field for the Atlanta Falcons, Steven Jackson took another step toward returning to game action on Thursday.

Steven was still limited in practice, but coach Mike Smith noted that SJ did more on Thursday and that everything is going according to plan as they head into the weekend.

“In terms of limited they had more snaps than they had yesterday,” Smith said of Steven and teammate Chase Coffman. “That was the plan, try to ramp them up and give them their first day very limited, and I say it was almost a full day for those guys today.”

Steven, pictured in a practice during September, has made strides toward a return to game action in this week's practice sessions (Atlanta Falcons Photo).

Since being cleared to practice, No. 39 has been cautiously optimistic about his status and noted on Wednesday that there were many things he could accomplish with a few days of practice if all goes well.

“Once I get back out there it will be like Day 1 in training camp, getting back my run reads, getting back my fits with the offensive line, and just giving words of encouragement,” he said. “That’s the veteran leadership that I bring.”

If S-Jax is able to return to the lineup this week, it would not only bring the Falcons some valuable leadership, but would also immediately bolster a struggling Atlanta ground attack. The Falcons are averaging just 68.3 yards per game on the ground, ranked 30th of 32 NFL teams.

Last week, in a victory over Tampa Bay, Atlanta relied heavily on the arm of quartrback Matt Ryan, who accounted for 261 of the team’s 291 yards. Running back tandem Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers combined for 15 carries and 30 yards on the ground.

But Steven said the lack of ground production doesn’t add any extra expectations for his return, and stressed that he must remain diligent in his rehab and stay patient to avoid making matters worse.

“Overall as a team we haven’t been where we want to be in the running game,” he said. “But I feel no added pressure from that. The organization and the training staff has been more than willing to work with me and make sure I’m 100 percent.”

Sitting on the sidelines while his team lost games was a tough pill to swallow for No. 39 (Atlanta Falcons Photo).

With a record of 2-4, the Falcons have little room for error and must play their best football moving forward. Steven explained Wednesday how much it has hurt him to not be able to contribute, but there is one positive from the experience that he will take into the second half of the season.

“It’s been difficult to watch, seeing my teammates go out there and battle,” he said.  “Being here seven days a week with those guys, but not being able to participate and maybe be a difference maker in a game or two, it’s been very frustrating. But I’ve learned a lot by actually becoming a coach. Now I think I know more of the details of some of the plays that I probably didn’t know because I was just so new to the offense.”

Though the situation seems dire for the Falcons — at third place in their division and 12th in the conference — they’re aware that plenty of games remain, as they are not even halfway through their season. With that in mind, No. 39 said he believes all of the team’s goals are still achievable.

“Coming into this season, I definitely didn’t want to miss any games. I take great pride in being a workhorse. But I knew that I had to close out games and close out the season. Everything I wanted to do is ahead of me to do, so it’s just making sure I continue to work hard so when the opportunity presents itself, I’m ready,” he said. “I’m still as hungry as ever. I just see it as a test, something I’ve been through before and been successful with individually. Now I can come in here and we have such an amazing team that maybe I can be that difference maker. “

The Falcons depart Atlanta this weekend and head to Arizona, where they will take on one of Steven’s former NFC West rivals, the Arizona Cardinals. Kickoff is slated for 4:25 p.m. EDT with the game airing on FOX.