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Notebook: August 23


Think about this for a moment: In a situation where you've got a chance to really kick the tires on your team and know where you stand before the season, what better team to face than the Pittsburgh Steelers?

There aren't many, if any, teams that could be legitimate answers to that question, and the Falcons are definitely taking note of just how good this upcoming opportunity Saturday night really is.

With the third preseason game traditionally being when teams play their starters the most prior to the start of the regular season, head coach Mike Smith will get a real good look at where his team stands after just more than three weeks of practices, particularly the offense.

You could argue that the spotlight is on both sides of the ball equally for the Falcons, but with the high-profile addition of Julio Jones during the 2011 NFL Draft, the spotlight could shine a little brighter on the offense against Pittsburgh's heralded defense.

"They're an outstanding football team, not only defense," Smith said after practice Tuesday. "It's a 3-4 defense. They're very exotic in some of the things they do. To me, they're coached by probably one of the all-time great defensive coordinators that's ever coached this game in Dick LeBeau. If they're game-planning, we've got to be prepared for everything, because he's seen it all and our guys will be challenged."

The Falcons started last season in Pittsburgh during a Week 1 loss to the Steelers. The vaunted defense that includes guys like Pro Bowlers Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Brett Keisel, as well as Casey Hampton and James Farrior, will certainly give the Falcons a run for their money Saturday.

The Falcons are looking forward to the challenge.

"That's a good test to get any time. They're good," right tackle Tyson Clabo said. "They've been running that same scheme for about as long as football's been around and they know how to do it. They know what they're doing. It'll be a good test for us, just like it was last year on opening day. That was a good test and I anticipate a similar atmosphere."

Home Again: After being drafted by the Falcons in 1999, tight end Reggie Kelly had found a new home. Even after his career eventually took him to Cincinnati for seven seasons, Atlanta would always be the place he'd come during the offseason.

Now, the 13-year veteran doesn't have to leave.

Kelly was signed by the Falcons last week after offering an injury settlement to former backup tight end Justin Peelle.

"It feels great to be back, back with the Dirty Birds again," Kelly said Tuesday. "I had a great time while I was here. I had the opportunity to make a nice playoff run the last time I was here. The guys are welcoming me in with open arms. It's a close-knit team and the guys work extremely hard. It should be exciting."

Kelly joins another veteran tight end hoping to make a real nice playoff run before his career ends in Tony Gonzalez. Being on the same team with the future hall-of-famer, Kelly knows there's no pressure on him and he can just come in and put in the work to catch up on what he's missed so far.

Kelly is more known as a solid blocking tight end, although he can really make some plays in the passing game if he's called upon. In his career, Kelly has caught 194 passes for 1,760 yards and five touchdowns.

"Whatever they need me to do, I'm willing to do it," Kelly said. "This team is already established with a great group of veteran guys. However they need me to contribute, I'm willing to do that. We have to see the different game plans, see how the coaches implement me into this offense, but whatever the case, I'm excited."

Injury Update: Smith gave an update on several injured players Tuesday.

CB Dunta Robinson will likely not play against Pittsburgh after an injury suffered just more than a week ago. Robinson also didn't play against Jacksonville.

Smith did say the injury will not require nearly as much time as last year when Robinson missed almost all of camp with a hamstring injury.

Linebackers Akeem Dent and Robert James returned to full practice today.

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