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Pitt rookies make NFL rosters

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By John Grupp
Sunday, Sept. 5, 2010

A pair of former all-Big East tight ends from Pitt who slid to the late rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft have made their respective teams.

Sixth-rounder Nate Byham is part of the 53-man roster of the San Francisco 49ers, and seventh-rounder Dorin Dickerson survived the cut with the Houston Texans.

Undrafted free agent cornerback Aaron Berry escaped Saturday's cuts after the Detroit Lions released former Pro Bowler Dre' Bly and Eric King, both cornerbacks.

The news was not as good for defensive tackle Mick Williams, an undrafted free agent who was one of the Chicago Bears' final cuts on Saturday.

Dickerson, an All-America last season after catching 49 passes for 529 yards and 10 touchdowns, moved to wide receiver and flourished at his new position. The West Allegheny High School product solidified his spot with five receptions for 45 yards, including a highlight-reel one-handed sideline grab for 24 yards in the Texans' 24-17 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday in their preseason finale.

Dickerson's chances were helped when wide receiver Andre Davis (hip) went on injured reserve. Dickerson, who caught eight passes for 83 yards in three pre-season games, had been listed as a third-string receiver behind All-Pro Andre Johnson and Davis.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Dickerson, who was the target of 16 passes against Tampa Bay, also had a couple of drops.

"He's up-and-down as a player," Texans coach Gary Kubiak told the media after the game. "He's got the ability to play in this league. He's been sporadic."

Byham has been fairly consistent, and that was enough to make the 49ers as a third-string tight end behind Pro Bowler Vernon Davis and back-up Delanie Walker. The 6-foot-4, 268-pound Byham, known for his blocking ability, has been a productive pass catcher this preseason. He tied for the team-lead in receptions (10) and was second in yardage (116). That's more than he did in 13 games as a senior at Pitt, when he had 10 catches for 108 yards.

"If giving (coach Mike) Singletary what he wants were easy, anyone could do it," Byham told the San Jose Mercury News. "That's why he's looking for certain people. I think there's a mutual respect because he knows where I come from. He knows I can do it. That's why he holds us at a higher level."

Berry had missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury after his surprising elevation to second-team defense during training camp. He made his pre-season debut in the Lions' 28-23 victory over the Bills on Thursday and had one pass break-up.

Williams, a 6-1, 280-pounder who was the Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year last season, was listed as the fourth-string nose tackle for the Bears. He had five solo tackles in three games.

The NFL dreams of two former Pitt players were damaged last week. Former all-Big East quarterback Bill Stull was cut by the Chiefs on Monday (Tyler Palko is the team's third-string quarterback), and guard John Malecki was waived by the Browns the next day.

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