Tomlin on Brees, O-line, Wheaton

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Q. When you look at the league's elite quarterbacks – a list that includes Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and certainly Drew Brees – what's unique about Brees?**

A. I don't know there's anything unique about him that separates him from that group. Instead, there are a lot of things about him that put him in that group. He's just solid in so many areas – above the neck, below the neck, mechanically, he makes good and quick decisions, he makes the guys around him better. There are probably more things alike than different when you're talking about that elite group.

Q. You had mentioned in your news conference that sacking Brees often is the result of a mistake somewhere. Does that make him unique?

A. You could say the same thing about Peyton Manning. Peyton doesn't get hit unless he chooses to, unless something really outside the framework happens. That's one of the things that makes some of the elite guys elite. Sometimes it's physical talent, sometimes it's the way they see the game above the neck in terms of the speed in which they make decisions and the accuracy with which they make decisions. Most of the times it's combinations, and Brees is definitely a guy who has a strong above-the-neck game to go along with his physical skills.

Q. Are there any traits you can expect from a defense coordinated by Rob Ryan?

A. That it will be thoughtfully non-rhythmic. It'll be schizophrenic at times. But I think he's dumb like a fox, as the saying goes. He's very thoughtful about how he packages things together, and the bottom line is you have to be prepared for as few as two pass rushers coming and as many as seven or eight coming. That's one of the things that has allowed him to sustain the level of success he has had.

Q. Are Rob and his brother, Rex, alike in how they coordinate a defense, how they call a game?

A. Rob probably has a wider spectrum from which he would attack you than his brother.

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Q. Is the best offensive line you've had during your time as the Steelers' coach?**

A. It should be. We've got a lot invested in it. We took Maurkice Pouncey on the first round five years ago, and he's in his second contract. We took Marcus Gilbert in Round 2, and he's in his second contract. We took David DeCastro in Round 1, and he's moving into the latter part of his first contract, and Kelvin Beachum and Ramon Foster are solid guys. So this offensive line should be in the argument in terms of the most accomplished and best offensive lines we've had.

Q. You're getting some injured players back today, notably, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor and Shamarko Thomas. Does that indicate this team might be ready to make a run?

A. It's great to have those guys back, but their presence alone isn't going to get it done. I'm excited about what they're capable of as players, and they have to prove that. There's always excitement when you have an established guy coming back, but that established guy has to prove he's himself. I look forward to those guys making their usual contributions and making that real.

Q. Your kickoff return game looks like it has improved with Markus Wheaton as the deep man. What has he done to earn that role?

A. He's hitting it hard, and he's hitting it where it's supposed to go. Often times that's the required thing you've got to have in order for a kickoff return to be successful. There often is a hole there, but there's not a hole there for an extended period of time, so if you're not hitting it long-striding you could miss. Markus consistently hits it long-striding.

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Q. What makes Saints tight end Jimmy Graham such a difficult player to defend?**

A. He's a post player, and I mean that. He utilizes his body well, he has good and sure hands, and if you're on the wrong side of him or on the back-side of him you're simply tackling the catch. That's the unique aspect that he brings, and they utilize it very well.

Q. How do you slow down the Saints passing attack?

A. We have to let rush and coverage work together. When you're playing a guy like Drew Brees, you can't give him a steady diet of anything. The reality is we have to do a great job of covering to buy some time for the rush, and we have to do a great job of rushing to cover up for weaknesses that may turn up on the back end.

Q. What style of runner is Mark Ingram?

A. He's a one-cut, downhill runner. He's got a definite playing personality. He's got good contact balance and keeps his feet churning through contact. We have to do a great job of tackling him today by putting our shoulders on him. You can't arm-tackle this guy because he's going to break through those.

Q. The Saints have four safeties on the injured reserve list, and they'll be starting a couple of free agents at those positions today. Is that an area you can take advantage of?

A. It's something you try to take advantage of, but the strength of pack is the pack. There have been a number of weeks where we've had three quality safeties inactive, and we found ways to win games. I'm sure they're as committed to that as we were to our cause. It's about defeating their defense for us.

Q. If this game comes down to special teams, is there something that would concern you?

A. I don't know that I'm concerned about anything other than the fact that we have to acknowledge their thirst, which is what I told our guys during the course of the week. This is the same team that came out in the Super Bowl a few years ago and kicked a surprise-onside to start the second half. We have to respect their willingness and capability in that area.

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