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Where the Atlanta Falcons stand heading into Week 5 against the Steelers

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The team is still hurt, but hope springs eternal.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Update

The Falcons made one key roster move this week, adding defensive tackle Michael Bennett (no, not the Seahawks/Eagles Michael Bennett) to the roster. Bennett was promising coming out of college but his career has been repeatedly derailed by injuries, and he’s unlikely to get more than 10-15 snaps in his Falcons debut if he even suits up. The Falcons will lean heavily on Jack Crawford, Deadrin Senat and Terrell McClain against the Steelers with Grady Jarrett out.

Otherwise, the roster’s where it was a week ago, for better or for worse.

Health

The Falcons added Grady Jarrett to the injury report this week, and the stud defensive tackle will miss this game. That means the Falcons are missing arguably their best player at every level of the defense, depending on how you feel about Jarrett vs. Takkarist McKinley and Keanu Neal vs. the team’s top cornerbacks.

The defense is still in rough shape, in other words, while the offense is healthy outside of the loss of Andy Levitre earlier this year, and Wes Schweitzer has done a fine job of replacing him. There’s another shootout brewing in Pittsburgh.

What’s at stake?

Basically, a win here is potentially the difference between staying alive in the playoff hunt and transitioning to worrying about next year. The Falcons won’t be mathematically dead for a while, but their only road to relevance this year comes through winning games right now, starting with this weirdly shaky Pittsburgh team.

If the Falcons lose they’ll be at 1-4 in a division where the Saints and Panthers both look like contenders, albeit flawed ones, and will have to make up an unreasonable amount of ground. It’s not impossible, but it will require the Falcons to be superb in a way they just haven’t been on both sides of the ball this season.

A win, though? That’s 2-3, with a 1-1 record in the division and a matchup against a crumbling Buccaneers team on deck. That’s hope. That’s being alive.

Outlook

I’m dubious that the Falcons will win this, as much as it pains me to write that. I thought they could win both the Saints and Bengals game and think they can win this one, but it’s hard to bet on this team in a close shootout after two straight awful losses, and that’s what I think we’re in store for here. I’ll hope for another fireworks display on offense and genuine improvement on defense, but I’m not expecting it. Kudos to you if you are.