METAIRIE, La. ― History, it's said, is doomed to repeat itself if its lessons aren't studied and learned.

With that in mind, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees made it their job this past offseason to educate themselves as to the rigors of the season following a win in the Super Bowl.

Seven games into the season, it appears the Saints are learning another important lesson no matter how much you try to learn about the past, it's all about the present.

New Orleans' less-than-spectacular 4-3 start has everyone scratching their heads these days.

'It's not like we've been naive to the history,' Brees said.

Indeed, Payton queried Mike Tomlin, the head coach of this week's opponent and someone who knows what the Saints are going through. He coached the Steelers to a Super Bowl win in the 2008 season and followed it up by missing the playoffs.

The pitfalls are as much from outside expectations as from inside, Tomlin said.

'I think the level of expectations kind of change, but my experience was that we were simply trying to walk the journey to win a world championship and become world champions,' Tomlin said. 'I'm sure New Orleans is and it's tough doing it. The fact that you're defending champs, probably is an issue from those on the outside, but just walking the journey itself is a difficult one.'

The Saints' offense started off slowly, got better and has been up and down ever since. Brees alone has eight interceptions in the past three games, including three against Arizona and four against Cleveland.

The defense, so good at takeaways a season ago, are lagging this season. New Orleans has only nine takeaways and only five teams have fewer.

And that's what has everyone so flummoxed right now. That is, the need to compare this season to last is human nature and the comparison right now is leaving people wanting more.

'Any time you have success and especially when you get to the Super Bowl, you get to the ultimate definition of success (and) the next time you don't, you're always going to compare it to when you did,' Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said. 'At the same time, this is a different mountain, this is a different task. To get there is going to be a different road. You can't necessarily follow the same steps you did last time. But you can still take the blueprint.'

Added Brees, 'I can't sit and say that we're not trying as hard maybe we've put a little too much pressure on ourselves. I think we're all in the midst of trying to put our finger on what exactly is going on. We know the type of team we have.'

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