Biermann tabbed for starting DE role with Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Though Kroy Biermann has been named Atlanta's starting defensive end, he isn't taking anything for granted.

Earlier this week Falcons line coach Ray Hamilton told Biermann that he had beaten out Jamaal Anderson, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and will start opposite right end John Abraham.

Biermann, a fifth-round pick in '08 out of Montana, outplayed Chauncey Davis and Lawrence Sidbury, too, but he is downplaying any significance.

"I'm thankful that I got a chance to play this year," Biermann said Thursday in a monotone voice. "I'm happy that this franchise looked at me as a good player and as someone they wanted on the team to help them win. I'm doing everything I can to continue to improve."

When Atlanta opens the season Sunday at Pittsburgh, Biermann will make his third career start -- but his first two were at tackle as the Falcons tried to replace Peria Jerry early last season.

Winning the job at end is a bigger deal.

Biermann was drafted as an end but he shows no emotion when talking about a career milestone.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Biermann didn't smile last year, either, when asked to describe an unlikely touchdown he scored on a career-first fumble recovery at New Orleans.

Biermann will start next to Trey Lewis, who is filling in because of Jonathan Babineaux's one-game suspension. Jerry lines up between Lewis and Abraham.

Anderson, Davis, Lawrence Sidbury and Vance Walker will takes plenty of snaps, too.

Rookie Corey Peters will likely be inactive. The second-round pick has only recently returned to practice after hurting a knee three weeks ago.

Head coach Mike Smith believes the linemen must be careful against Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon, the former Oregon standout who's filling for suspended Ben Roethlisberger and injured Byron Leftwich.

Dixon's speed is a concern.

"We don't want the play to break down and have the quarterback gain yards on us," Smith said. "It's going to be important for our defensive line to have very good rush lanes and we've got to be on top of our game with containment as well. If he gets on the perimeter, he has the speed to run away from linebackers and certain DBs."

The Steelers need to improve their pass protection after last year's offense allowed 50 sacks, second-most in the league in 2009. They'll have to do it without right tackle Willie Colon, who tore a knee ligament last month and was replaced by longtime NFL veteran Flozell Adams.

Rookie Maurkice Pouncey was drafted in the first round as a guard, but he will start at center.

Biermann, who will line up against Adams, finished last season with five sacks, 40 solo tackles, one forced fumble and the fumble recovery against the Saints.

Another reason Biermann beat out Anderson, who has just 2.5 career sacks in three seasons, was his commitment to improving his strength and working with team trainers over the last three years.

"He has a better understanding of leverage," Smith said. "He was probably a 248-pound defensive end out of Montana, but he's reworked his body and he has a great motor. He's been an outstanding special teams player for us as well as contributing to the pass rush."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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