If the Canadian Flag Football Federation comes calling during the buildup to the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Christian Veilleux will 100% jump on board.
But the Olympics are still a long, long way off, and after a brutal loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. over the week, he can’t afford to look that far ahead. He can’t afford to do anything but approach each day with 100% of his time and dedication. As Charlie Partridge likes to say, it’s about being where your feet are.
So, it may not have been easy, but after flying back from South Bend Saturday night, Veilleux was back at the facility early Sunday to watch film.
“That’s really what Sunday’s about,” Veilleux said Tuesday after practice. “You watch the film, you try to understand the mistakes, learn from them and identify how you can avoid them. So, we had a great Sunday just watching the film. Obviously, it wasn’t fun, but I think we all took something from it, we learned from it and it’s definitely gonna help this week.”
Veilleux completed just 14-of-29 pass attempts (48.3%) for 127 yards with four interceptions against the Irish. It was a poor performance, one in which he never really appeared to be on the same page with his wideouts, and he said that the only thing he can do is learn from it — he made just his third career start, after all.
“I look at Christian, who’s really played well since he’s taken over that starting job,” Pat Narduzzi said Monday at his weekly press conference. “He, obviously, didn’t play his best game. But you watch some of the great plays he makes, and you’re like, ‘Yeah.’
“But I go back to you look at experience is critical. He hasn’t even played as many games as Kenny Pickett played his freshman year when he came in and played four games as a true freshman. And, you know, he will get much better every game. And experience is the best teacher. And you can’t force-feed that.”
It’s also not all that surprising that he was never really all that comfortable either. Not when Pitt wanted to attack one of the very best pass defenses in the country.
The Irish are top three nationally in completion percentage allowed (51.8%), passing yards allowed per game (158.3 yards) and passes intercepted (13 picks). Those numbers are inflated a bit by the performance against the Panthers, but it’s the same defense that locked up USC quarterback Caleb Williams and limited Ohio State to 17 points.
“I think the Notre Dame defense did a great job playing the Cover 2 which they played,” Veilleux said. “It was hard for me to identify, but I think it was one of those moments where you’ve never seen a defense play like that and now you get those reps and finally understand — learn from it.
“You definitely learn something new every game, I think what Nore Dame did was unique and to their own style, like I said, just getting those reps and being able to learn from it will go a long way.”
The Notre Dame secondary was flying around the field, but the Irish pass rush was a major factor in forcing Veilleux into questionable situations.
According to PFF, Veilleux was pressured on 45% of his 31 dropbacks against the Irish, which is way, way up from Louisville (21.4% of dropbacks) and Wake Forest (21.7% of dropbacks). And when pressured by the Irish, Veilleux completed just 25% of his pass attempts and threw all four interceptions.
Notre Dame certainly got after Veilleux. The Irish blitzed hard and often, blitzing on 21 of 31 dropbacks (67.7%), which is also way up from both Louisville (35.7%) and Wake Forest (30.4%). Simply put, Notre Dame was unlike anything Veilleux has experienced at the collegiate level.
Veilleux knows what he has to do. Stay cool, stand back in the pocket and take a hit if needed to make a play and just really understand and execute the playbook. It didn’t go according to plan against the Irish.
“I think I got away from that over the weekend, I tried to do some things I shouldn’t have done and like I said, it’s a great learning opportunity just to stay within the system, stand back there and be the guy to deliver the ball, even if you have to take a hit.
“Afterward when I watched the tape, I was just like, ‘Man I think I let it get to me a little bit.’ Something to learn from, definitely a great opportunity to play there against that team at their stadium, just gotta learn from it.”
It won’t get a whole lot easier this week with No. 4 Florida State coming to town. The Seminoles aren’t quite on the level of Notre Dame’s defensive dominance, but this is the same team that Narduzzi has ranked No. 2 in his weekly Coaches Poll over the last few weeks. You’ve gotta start fast when Jordan Travis — who Veilleux said he’s excited to watch from the sideline — is your opponent.
“I think the first hit and the first completion, like once you get that first completion, you get rolling,” Veilleux said. “And the first play against Notre Dame was a sack, and that just didn’t help get my rhythm set and get me feeling comfortable.”
Florida State is the first four November games, the last four games of the season, and while Narduzzi has mentioned last season’s 4-0 month of November, he also said he doesn’t care about it. It’s 2023, not 2022. This is a different team.
It’s not always easy to maintain a level of commitment and excitement in the midst of a 2-6 season, having lost six of the last seven games and coming off a career-worst loss for Narduzzi, but Veilleux believes the team has the right mindset, the right mentality, and he’s just there to help keep that up.
“Well, obviously, it’s not easy, but hey, it’s November, we’ve got four games left and November’s the month that really matters,” Veilleux said. “Just keeping the fight, keeping the courage, nobody’s ready to quit yet and I don’t think we’re gonna be ready to quit until we have nothing left to give, nothing left to play.”
Veilleux spends a lot of time in the wide receivers room with Tiquan Underwood and the wide receivers, since Frank Cignetti Jr. has his office used for staff meetings, and Veilleux actually watches his film in Underwood’s office. There’s a Canadian flag and all. There’s a lot of love and respect and trust between Veilleux, Underwood and the wide receivers.
There were certainly some miscommunications between Veilleux and the wide receivers Saturday, as the offense as a whole failed to click, but he’s confident in the relationship he’s built with his wideouts.
But, of course, the wide receivers can only do so much blocking, especially upfront in the face of an all-out blitz, so he’s working with the offensive line, too. Working on identifying pressures and setting up protections to block it effectively.
The offense as a whole is a work in progress, clearly (one that may never reach what it was supposed to be), but Veilleux trusts Cignetti. It’s a major reason why he came to Pittsburgh in the first place. And, as of right now, Narduzzi feels good about where the quarterback’s room — Nate Yarnell included — is headed.
“I feel great with Christian,” Narduzzi said. “I feel great with Nate Yarnell. You saw how he performed when he got in there too. I said that back in camp. Each one of them continue to grow every week. Is Christian where he is right now compared to where he was game one or fall camp, he’s way far ahead.
“I think every week he becomes more confident in what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. And every week, he sees a different coverage or sees this or that and has a better feel of what he’s got to do. It’s only going to make him better. And I feel good with that quarterback room.”