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The Steelers were just six "good" or "elite" players from the Super Bowl

A study run by Pro Football Focus and published by ESPN showed the Steelers had above-average amounts of goodness and 'eliteness', but too much 'averageness' to be considered Super Bowl contenders.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It's simple. Just add six more "good" players, and the Steelers are Super Bowl contenders.

At least in the eyes of Pro Football Focus.

That was the result of a recent project that asked the data-based web site to determine how close, in terms of the number of quality players on their roster, the 30 teams not in the Super Bowl were to making it this year.

The Steelers were found to be six "good" and "elite" players short of the 40-percent quality threshold for a roster good enough to hoist the Lombardi. 

Although somewhat arbitrary and subjective, the exercise does reinforce the widely held notion that good players make up teams that win Super Bowls. The reality is that the loss of Le-Veon Bell, one of their three "elite" players, as determined by Pro Football Focus (the others being Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger), likely had as much or more to do with the Steelers not being in Arizona this week than not having six better players on their roster.

Happily, the study did serve to dispel another widely held notion: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is not "elite."

The Steelers graded out above-average with their three elite players (the league average is two), the number of "good" players they have (five, compared to a league average of 4.3) and "bad" players (four, league average is 5.8).

Rated "bad" were wide receiver Justin Brown, who is no longer with the team, cornerback Cortez Allen, who was placed on injured reserve with a month left in the season, Ike Taylor, who missed most of the season, and Cam Thomas, for whom the Steelers have no real excuse.

The rest of the 23 Steelers' players included in the study were rated as "average," which is two more than the league average.