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A.J. SMITH PURSUES STEELERS JOB

A.J. Smith, the Buffalo Bills' director of pro personnel, had an interview Tuesday in Pittsburgh for a position with the Steelers as director of football operations.

The Steelers are looking to replace Tom Donahoe for what essentially is the general manager position. Donohoe was fired two weeks ago after losing out in a power struggle with coach Bill Cowher.

Smith is one of the key talent evaluators for the Bills and was the driving force behind the signing of Doug Flutie last year.

"It's a step up, and the ownership and the tradition is attractive to me," Smith said. "I'm flattered I was brought down, and I think it went well, but I'm just one candidate right now."

Smith, 50, is in charge of evaluating talent in the NFL and all other pro leagues, as well as advance scouting for the Bills. He joined the Bills in 1987 and has been the chief pro scout since 1993. He has been an instrumental factor in the Bills' successful ventures into the free agent market, as well as the signing of free agents from outside the NFL, such as Flutie.

Smith was the first candidate to be interviewed by the Steelers, who are expected to meet with about four others.

Meanwhile, former NFL running back James Saxon will be the Bills' new running backs coach, according to various sources.

Saxon, 33, was a sixth-round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1988 out of San Jose State. Bills offensive coordinator Joe Pendry was on Kansas City's coaching staff during Saxon's four-year stint with the team. He also played for the Miami Dolphins (1992-94) and Philadelphia Eagles (1995).

Saxon's only coaching experience was at Rutgers University, where he served as running backs coach from 1997-98.

However, he is well acquainted with the Bills. He was a coaching intern with the Bills at training camp last summer as part of the league's Minority Fellowship Program.

Coach Wade Phillips was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Phillips indicated Monday that a formal announcement on the new running backs coach would be made next week.

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