Yet, the Steelers didn't make a single offer to a free-agent linemanor or even bring one in for a visit."> Yet, the Steelers didn't make a single offer to a free-agent linemanor or even bring one in for a visit.">

Draft series: Offensive Line

The Steelers ranked next-to-last in the NFL in running the ball last season and it wasn't solely the fault of the backs. Coach Bill Cowher pointed to the line as recently as the NFL owners' meetings less than two weeks ago.<p>"We couldn't create any kind of openings in the offensive line," Cowher said. "We were just going in there banging your head, falling forward and getting three yards."<p>Yet, the Steelers didn't make a single offer to a free-agent linemanor or even bring one in for a visit.

Obviously, the return of left tackle Marvel Smith and right guard Kendall Simmons will bolster the unit. But even Cowher realizes full health can't be guaranteed for a.) Smith, who missed all but one series of 11 games with a pinched shoulder nerve; or b.) Simmons, who developed diabetes and admitted to struggling with the condition all season.

Even if the full health of those two players could be guaranteed, help is needed at right tackle. Last year, Oliver Ross and Todd Fordham gave the Steelers their worst play at the position since the combined 1998 (starters Justin Strzelczyk, Jamain Stephens, Jim Sweeney) and 1999 (starters Chris Conrad, Anthony Brown, Shar Pourdanesh) seasons, when the Steelers went 13-19. It was the worst two-year stretch of the 12-year Cowher era.

First round - Shawn Andrews (6-4 7/8, 345) of Arkansas has been on a roller-coaster ride the past seven months. Scouts called him a top-10 prospect in September when the junior played perhaps his finest game against Alabama. He recorded a school-record 21 knockdowns during a successful rally from a 31-10 second-half deficit. Arkansas rushed for 289 yards in the game and line coach Mike Markeson credited Andrews.

"He just kept knocking guys back, answering the bell and making every block we asked," Markeson told Pro Football Weekly. "When he's motivated, Shawn is nearly impossible to beat."

Andrews was motivated against LSU, too. Against the nation's top run defense on Nov. 28, Arkansas gained 201 yards rushing. Only two other teams rushed for more than 100 yards against LSU, with Louisiana Tech, surprisingly, second with 121.

Andrews' problems began late in the season when polyps blocked all of his right nasal passage and half of his left. Doctors advised he sit out his team's bowl game. He also failed to pass a required six hours of course work due to the medical problem. Andrews couldn't work out and his medication, Pregnazone, caused his weight to rise above 400 pounds.

Even though he'd lost 35 pounds by the combine, Andrews' stock was in free fall. But he showed up at the Steelers' practice facility last week at 345 pounds. He lost the weight working out in Arizona. He was enthusiastic and as bright as can be expected of someone with a Wonderlic test score of 20. Many scouts believe Andrews will have to move to guard, however, he appears to be more fit than Ross and has the quick feet required to become a quality pass-blocker.

The question becomes: Have the Steelers been dissuaded by the roller-coaster ride and scratched Andrews from the first-round? But the bigger question might be: Can they be so dismissive with such a lean crop of tackles available in the draft?

Second round - Vernon Carey (6-4 3/8, 335) played right tackle for Miami as a junior but was moved to right guard as a senior. The coaching staff wanted to put their third best tackle on the field instead of their second best guard and the move, as well as a season-long ankle injury, has hurt Carey's draft status. If Carey had been allowed to continue at right tackle, where Miami used the underachieving Carlos Joseph, Carey might be a lock for the first round, if not the first half of the first round. The Steelers could be the lucky beneficiaries.

Fourth round - Adrian Jones (6-4 ¼, 296) was a tight end for three years at Kansas before moving to right tackle last year. That's one more year at tackle than Larry Brown spent at the position while at Kansas. The Steelers drafted Brown in the fifth round in 1971 and moved him to right tackle and won a few Super Bowls. Jones has the athletic ability to match the good karma.

Sixth round - Stacy Andrews (6-6 1/8, 342) is Shawn's older brother and went to Ole Miss on a track scholarship. He holds school records in the shot, discus and hammer throw. He played one year of high school football and was talked into playing this past season and was a back-up tackle in five games. His athletic ability is mind-numbing. Andrews benches 450, squats 700, ran a 5.08 40 at the combine and benched 225 34 times. Shawn, after reviewing a CD of Stacy's limited playing catalogue, said: "After he's in this league for five years, he's probably going to be better than me. I really believe that."

Joseph, who visited the Steelers' practice facility last week, has a Wonderlic test score of 7. … On the other hand, Nat Dorsey of Georgia Tech has an extremely high score of 35, which may explain the reason he obsesses over a poor play. Dorsey also learned his shoulder joint was "completely worn" during his sophomore season. Last year, as a junior, the one-time freshman first-team All-ACC performer wasn't even honorable mention. … USC LT Jacob Rogers, at 307 pounds, lacks the bulk to play right tackle, has been injured every college season and had a third of his left lung removed as a child. … Purdue RT Kelly Butler, at the age of 10, lost his mother when she was shot and killed. He lost his father two years later. Butler was raised by a family friend and has been in trouble with the law three times - twice in one day earlier this month when he was arrested at 2:24 a.m. for public intoxication and at 11:49 p.m. for driving with a suspended license. In November 2002, Butler was arrested after allegedly striking a fraternity pledge. He and teammate Stuart Schweigert told police they were at a campus bar when they received a call that quarterback Brandon Kirsch had been in a fight. According to court documents, Butler struck a pledge twice in the face and kicked him several times. The charges were later dropped.

Khiawatha Downey (6-4 1/8, 332) of IUP played for Pitt before being kicked off the team. He had tested positive for marijuana, which he used during that time to deal with multiple sclerosis. With the help of medication, Downey was able to return to football in 2002 and was named to the Division II All-America team last season. His coach at IUP, Frank Cignetti, told that Downey "is a better prospect than the two linemen we have in the NFL right now, Chris Villarrial and Leander Jordan. He's a player."

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