OK, here's the coda to the Saga of Sammy's Steering Shaft Scraping.
As I had posted, I found the source of the scraping noise I was getting when I would turn the steering wheel. It was the lower steering shaft bearing, which is held in place in the shift collar by a spring on the shaft.
There is absolutely NO technical info on the guts of the steering column - Dodge's solution to any steering shaft problem is simply to replace the whole column, at a cost of around $2300 including parts and labor. So, since I managed to replace this bad bearing with one of Rock Solid's solid rubber bushings, I decided to post a photo of the bearing assembly in its component parts. This will give us at least a nugget of info that can be of use to others who have steering column problems.
Here is a photo of the disassembled bearing:
Left to right - bearing "seal", race, bearing, shift collar. The seal holds the race and bearing into the collar, and a spring on the lower shaft pushes against the seal. If you'll look at the race, you'll see that it's tapered and has a gap to allow it to compress - obviously this is to allow the spring to compress it around the shaft and simultaneously press it into the bearing. The big failing here, aside from the obvious one of wear (bet you can't walk into a bearing supply house and buy one of THESE) is that dirt and water can easily get into the bearing, which is what happened to mine. Why Dodge designed this cockamamie Rube Goldberg thing when a simple rubber bushing would do/does better is beyond me.
Be that as it may, the noise is gone now, the steering is tighter, and I saved about $2200.