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Patrick Queen turned down more money for chance to 'win right now' with Steelers

Patrick Queen switched sides in a classic AFC North rivalry this offseason, and it turns out he turned down more money from elsewhere to do so.

The Raven-turned-Steeler hit the open market in March coming off a Pro Bowl bid and a second-team All-Pro nomination -- both firsts in his career -- and took a three-year, $41 million deal to join Pittsburgh because he believes he can win a championship there.

"From all the 15 teams that I was talking to, it came down to like five at the end," Queen recently told Steelers_DB regarding his journey in free agency. "It was just like five teams in the mix. Some of them were offering some $17 (million per year). After that it was like, I have a chance to either go win or I have a chance to get paid. For me, the difference was like $4 or $5 million. I'm looking at it like, I've never been on a losing team before, and then I also don't want to be a part of anything being rebuilt because I'm trying to win now. … I'm really just trying to win right now, get that out the way and then get paid later."

If the Steelers truly did underbid for Queen, they were lucky to lure him to the Black and Gold thanks to a winning culture and sustained history of defensive excellence. Coming off a season with a career-high 133 tackles, he's an ideal off-ball linebacker to capitalize behind the havoc wreaked by pass rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.

Plus, he'll be paid handsomely for his services regardless. Queen currently slots in as the fifth-highest paid linebacker on a per-year basis with an average of $13.6 million.

The first among his peers is Roquan Smith ($20 million per year), whose extension at the end of the 2022 season eventually spelled the end of the Smith-Queen tandem.

Queen will now face Smith and the rest of his former teammates twice a year donning enemy colors, with one of the biggest hurdles to his goal to win it all being his old squad.

The Ravens enter 2024 with the reigning Most Valuable Player in Lamar Jackson and the league's reigning No. 1 scoring defense. Also the conference's top seed from a season ago, Baltimore fell short of the Super Bowl but still sits on the divisional throne Pittsburgh covets.

Meanwhile, the Steelers have yet to suffer a losing season in head coach Mike Tomlin's 17-year tenure, but they've also failed to rise to the level of true contender for over half a decade now. Pittsburgh has won the AFC North once since 2018 and never ventured beyond the wild-card round in three playoff trips during that span.

The focus this offseason has been to avoid stalling out once again. Queen represents the team's big-ticket addition on defense, while a reinvigorated quarterback room of newcomers Russell Wilson and Justin Fields should find stellar protection behind an offensive line buoyed by new talent from the draft.

The Steelers have a noticeably higher capacity to compete than in recent years, and they should have a good idea if their moves are paying off by the first time they square off against the rival Ravens. The two clubs don't meet until the latter half of the schedule, with Pittsburgh hosting in Week 11 and Queen returning to face the team that drafted him in Week 16.

"That week, the Steelers-Ravens week is definitely the most hype week," Queen said of past seasons' matchups. "It's intense. Everything is at a higher risk. At practice, coaches are screaming and fussing and this and that. Because everybody knows what type of game it's going to be. … Being on this side now, it's going to be the opposite. So now I'm going to be on this side doing the same stuff. I know they expect all that stuff now. Honestly, (I) just can't wait."

By then, Queen also aims to be more than halfway through a season that cements him among the NFL's best and propels him closer to his desired ring.

"For me, just solidifying myself as a top-three linebacker in the NFL," Queen said, detailing his individual hopes for 2024. "There's some people saying top three, some people saying top 10, some people saying top seven -- whatever it may be -- so my job this year is just to solidify top three. No order. I don't care as long as I solidify myself top three. That's what my goal is. And what comes with is All-Pro, Pro Bowl, tackles, turnovers. I think turnovers is the biggest thing. Getting my hands on the ball, whether that's forced fumbles, interceptions, whatever I got to do."

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