Patriots' Wes Welker isn't afraid to stay the course

They meet again — this time, Wes Welker hopes, on better terms.

Two years ago, Welker was clobbered by Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark while running a route over the middle, a legal shot to the chest so brutal that the Steelers safety was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

The Steelers play host to the Patriots in a pivotal AFC game Sunday night, one that pits the league's No. 2 scoring offense (New England averages 27.4 points) and No. 1 scoring defense (Pittsburgh gives up 15.4 points).

Welker was knocked off his feet by the hit but later shrugged off the collision to reporters as part of the game.

Clark was somewhat reluctant to talk about the incident this week but told the Boston Globe: "We weren't friends before it. He didn't text me. I didn't have his number. I'm sure he won't text me now. I don't care about it. It gets brought up by people outside. It's just old.

"I have to get him on the ground this week. I'm sure he's not going to be worried about me."

Welker was asked this week if that hit caused him to change his approach when going over the middle.

"No, not at all," he said. "That's where I make my dough, so I'm not going to shy away from it at all.

"They're definitely up there. They're a physical, tough team. We have to be a physical and tough team right back and make sure we're not backing down and being a physical team right back."

This is the only game of the day matching teams with winning records. The Steelers and Patriots are both 6-2. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 5-1 in his career against the Steelers, including the playoffs.

Welker leads the NFL with 278 receptions since 2008. His productivity has been affected, though, by the Patriots' decision to trade Randy Moss, who stretched the field with his ability to get open deep.

Brady has yet to pass for 300 yards this season. His season high of 292 came in an overtime victory over Baltimore in Week 6.

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