This is how bad the Jets' cornerback situation is: An undrafted no-name, who was plucked off the Texans' practice squad last month, was added to the active roster last Thursday and started his first regular-season game three days later.
"I liked the way he played," Rex Ryan said of Marcus Williams, who recorded seven tackles and a pass defensed Sunday in the Jets' 24-10 loss to the Chiefs. "Marcus is a kid that really jumped out on the practice field when he was just running [with the] scout team . . . We let all those guys compete, and he earned the starting job."
The cornerback competition will continue this week, Ryan said.
Complicating matters is the Jets' next opponent. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 862 yards and a record 12 touchdowns in the past two games. The Steelers (6-3), third in total offense, have won three in a row.
"Right now, they're carving people up," Ryan said.
If he's not careful, his secondary could be next on the menu. But despite the unit's shaky play, Ryan insisted his starting cornerbacks -- whoever they may be -- will be ready for Big Ben.
"We have to get better, our plan has to get better, we have to coach better, we have to practice better and we have to play better," Ryan said. "All of those areas have to improve to stay competitive and more so, we have to find a way to win. That is what we aim to do.
"So will our corners be ready?" he asked. "Yeah, we'll be up to it."
Ryan's defense, which is predicated on strong cornerback play, has featured several players at the position this season: Williams, Josh Thomas, Phillip Adams, Darrin Walls and converted safety Antonio Allen. Ryan's longest-tenured cornerback, Kyle Wilson, never even was considered an option on the outside when starter Dee Milliner suffered a high ankle sprain in training camp and tore an Achilles tendon last month.
No one in the organization will say, on the record, that the cornerback situation is a mess. General manager John Idzik said last week that "every decision that has been made along the way has been geared to succeeding in 2014 and going forward."
But the Jets (1-8) are doing anything but succeeding, and their secondary play is a big reason why. The team is ranked 31st in points allowed per game (28) and 12th in passing defense, allowing 231 yards a game.
Williams' sudden promotion to the starting lineup would seem to be a red flag, but not to Ryan.
"One thing that it does show is we're trying to find guys that can help us and guys that can maybe elevate the position. And I think we did a good job when we brought in Marcus Williams," Ryan said. "I don't think anybody really knew him as much. Obviously, somebody up top in our pro personnel department recognized, hey, this guy might have a shot here. And that's what we brought him in for.
"Same holds true for Josh Thomas and Phillip Adams, for that matter. We're just trying to give ourselves an opportunity to be successful and we keep looking if there's somebody out there that we think can help our football team, we're going to bring them in."
Notes & quotes: Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (sprained knee) will miss the game, as will Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier (sprained ankle).