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'It's gonna be a great year'

The vibe on the South Side has been one of excitement and enthusiasm during the opening week of OTAs.

Linebacker Bud Dupree is understandably more excited and enthusiastic than most.

Dupree didn't participate in OTAs last season because of a groin injury that ultimately required sports hernia surgery.

Training camp was likewise lost.

As a result, Dupree opened the season on the Reserve/Injured list and wasn't activated until Nov. 19.

Football in shorts is understandably a much more appealing alternative.

"It means a lot," Dupree acknowledged this week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "I'm blessed to be healthy enough to compete in this atmosphere."

Adding to Dupree's excitement and anticipation is what he might be able to do in a season that's preceded by being able to get his work in during OTAs and at St. Vincent College in July and August, something Dupree is envisioning leading into the 2017 season.

"I'm gonna turn it up another notch," he insisted. "It's gonna go down.

"It's gonna be a big year, man. It's gonna be a great year. It's gonna be a big year for me but not only for me, for my whole defense as a whole."

Dupree wound up having a December to remember despite the late start last season.

The Steelers participate in day 3 of the 2017 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

After taking baby steps back into the rotation at outside linebacker in his first three regular-season games (Nov. 20 at Cleveland through Dec.4 against the New York Football Giants), Dupree started the final four (Dec. 11 at Buffalo through Jan. 1 against Cleveland).

He wound up with 4.5 sacks, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.

Dupree also started the Steelers' three playoff games.

"I got comfortable, they took care of me by just easing me in, not throwing me out there," he said. "They tried to make sure I was preserved for the end of the season.

"It worked out and I was just happy."

He'll be happier this season if he can realize his goal of being recognized as a player that can be counted upon for "high energy and making plays all around the field."

It starts with OTAs.

Dupree has been enjoying those thoroughly will finding his place in a defense that harbors great expectations.

"it's great communication, it's awesome, that's the amazing part," he said. "We gotta stay on top of it.

"We're going to work hard every day to be what we want to be, and our goal is to be the best."

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