Draft Series: Defensive line

Build it and they will win, folks said of the Steelers' defensive line.<br><br> First, they said, find another Joel Steed. And so the Steelers found one in Casey Hampton. The nose tackle made the Pro Bowl last year, matching the one made by Steed in 1998.<br><br> Find another Ray Seals, they said. And so the Steelers found one in Kimo von Oelhoffen. His 8 sacks were the most by a Steelers 3-4 defensive lineman since Seals had 8.5 in 1995.

Nobody really asked for another Brentson Buckner, the final piece of the 1995 AFC championship line. It's the line generally regarded as the best Steelers line under Coach Bill Cowher.

Instead, at left defensive end, these Steelers have Aaron Smith, who had only two sacks last year and hasn't made a Pro Bowl, but his position coach believes Smith to be the finest lineman to play under Cowher in Pittsburgh.

Add it all up and this is the city's new benchmark for 3-4 defensive lines. Suffice to say, the Steelers don't need much help at the position from this year's draft, and that's too bad because this crop of defensive linemen is considered a draft strength.

The No. 11 spot in particular will be a hot spot for defensive linemen. At least one of three top-shelf prospects -- Tommie Harris, Kenechi Udeze or Vince Wilfork - is expected to be available when the Steelers pick 11th.

Third round - Tim Anderson (6-3 ¼, 307) of Ohio State is everything the Steelers look for in a 3-4 defensive end. He was a state wrestling champ in high school and a three-year starter, team captain and strong-side tackle in college. Anderson is very strong, athletic and has great passion for the game. Since he's not much of a playmaker, he'd normally be considered a fourth-round prospect, but since the Raiders, Cowboys, Jets and Chargers are expected to mimic the Steelers, Patriots, Ravens and Texans with 3-4 alignments next season, the parts will be collected quickly.

Third round - Darrell Campbell (6-3 5/8, 302) of Notre Dame would be a fine alternative if Anderson's gone. The Steelers need depth along the line since Brett Keisel really hasn't shown much more than a proclivity for special teams. The other back-up to the 33-year-old von Oelhoffen is newly acquired Travis Kirschke, an unknown to all but the Detroit faction of the Steelers' front office.

Fourth round - Rodney Leisle (6-3 ¼, 309) of UCLA is another former wrestler with a non-stop motor who's considered a "tweener", or half-end, half-tackle.

Seventh round - Brandon "Bugar" Kennedy (5-9 ¾, 336) of North Texas is the brother of Broncos safety Kenoy Kennedy. A nose tackle, the fireplug-like Kennedy is a two-time Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. He anchored a very effective Mean Green run defense the last two seasons and has 17 career sacks. Kennedy showed his toughness by playing the last month of the 2002 season with a torn ACL.

Seventh round - Corey Williams (6-3 5/8, 313) of Arkansas State interests the Steelers, who could make him a priority free agent. The Steelers have a history at the school, drafting Carlos Emmons in 1996.

Seventh round - Aaron McConnell (6-1 5/8, 294) of Pittsburg State (Kansas) is another nose tackle, and the Steelers will be looking for one since they have yet to re-sign Hampton's back-up, Kendrick Clancy. McConnell is another former state high-school wrestling champ and was a two-year captain at the Division II school. He's known for his work ethic and strength (700-pound squat).

What in the world happened to Pitt defensive end Claude Harriott? The 6-3 5/8, 252-pounder was fantastic as a junior. He had 9.5 sacks and was named first-team All-Big East. At the Insight.com Bowl, he had seven tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks and was named MVP. And then nothing. He was part of the problem on a Pitt defense that collapsed last season. Harriott found himself on the bench by the end of the year, but could resuscitate his career if he can learn to drop as a 3-4 outside linebacker. The reports thus far haven't been glowing.

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