The NFL's 32 teams were required to trim their rosters down to 53 men apiece by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, and once the dust had settled, four of the six 2021 NFL draft picks out of Pitt had secured roster spots for themselves.
The list included Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Patrick Jones, New York Jets cornerback Jason Pinnock and Tennessee Titans defensive end Rashad Weaver. The two who did not make the cut were Jimmy Morrissey, who was waived by the Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday, and Jaylen Twyman, who was waived by the Vikings in July. However, Morrissey is a strong candidate for the Raiders' practice squad, and Twyman has cleared waivers and reverted to the Vikings' non-football injury list.
Hamlin went to the Bills in the sixth round of the draft after serving as a team captain and leading an elite Pitt defense in tackles and pass breakups in 2020, with 67 and seven. Last season, Hamlin was joined in the Pitt defensive backfield by Jason Pinnock, who tied for the team lead in interceptions, with three. Pinnock was drafted in the fifth round and turned head at Jets practices over the summer.
The Pitt defense was fronted by one of the top lines in the nation, and on the edges of that line were Jones and Weaver. Jones led the team in sacks, with nine, while Weaver tied for the team lead in tackles for losses, with 14.5. Hamlin, Jones and Weaver all earned All-ACC honors in 2020, and Jones and Weaver both attained consensus All-America status. Jones and Weaver would go on to become Pitt's first prospects to come off the board in the draft, going in the third and fourth rounds. And they earned spots on their respective teams with strong showings in the preseason.
The four 2021 draftees were among a group of 16 Pitt alums who officially made NFL rosters on Tuesday afternoon. However, the majority of the other dozen former Panthers were established enough in the league that their status was not in question. And that list was headlined by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd, Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.