The Pittsburgh Steelers' 2013 season has begun as badly as anyone could have imagined, and it would take a tremendous comeback for the team to make something of the season.
Given that disappointment, you would think there was no hope at all for the future—especially if you listen to the fans.
There is talent on this team, contrary to what pessimistic supporters will tell you, and here are five young players to watch develop over the course of the rest of the 2013 campaign.
I've stayed away from completely obvious choices, such as Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell.
Vince Williams, a player expected to sit and develop for at least a season, is now the starting inside linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons.
Williams has not been perfect so far, but he has been impressive, especially considering he was thrown into that starting role following an injury to Larry Foote.
This season is Williams’ chance to lock down this spot and prove he is the linebacker of the future for the team.
If not, the Steelers will have to look into drafting an inside linebacker early in next year’s draft.
With the Steelers’ offense struggling mightily to start the season, we all thought rookie Markus Wheaton would get a more prominent role going forward.
However, Wheaton only has three receptions to this point and is now dealing with an injury that could force him to miss the game against the New York Jets in Week 6, according to Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot.
Wheaton has the speed and quickness to become a playmaker for the Steelers on offense and it will be interesting to see how the rookie is used going forward.
The Steelers felt comfortable enough to allow Keenan Lewis to leave via free agency this offseason because of the potential of Cortez Allen.
Allen showed an ability to create turnovers last season when given the chance to play more and most of us expected more of the same in 2013.
While Allen hasn’t really played bad, he hasn’t been much of a factor and has already missed time due to an injury.
The Steelers have yet to create a turnover this season. The team needs Allen to step up and continue his development as the future No. 1 corner.
Most have completely forgotten about Cameron Heyward because he has been buried on the depth chart since being drafted in the first round by the team.
Brett Keisel just never seems to age and the team also had former first-round pick Ziggy Hood ahead of Heyward.
When given his opportunity to play this season, Heyward has definitely taken advantage by being disruptive and batting multiple passes down.
If Heyward continues to play like this going forward, he will take the starting job away from Hood and earn a second contract with the team.
A lot of attention has rightfully gone to rookie safety Shamarko Thomas, who is being groomed as an eventual starter at the position.
However, a player being completely overlooked right now is second-year player Robert Golden, who is a potential starter as well.
As hard as it is to think about, starters Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are not going to be around for much longer, and the team needed players to groom to take their places.
Golden made the team as an undrafted free agent last season. If he shows development, he will definitely be in consideration by the team as a replacement whenever Clark and Polamalu decide to retire.