At the time, Shanahan was in his first (and only) season as the Browns offensive coordinator. His starting quarterback that day, Brian Hoyer, was able to beat out then-rookie Johnny Manziel, who spent the afternoon wearing a cap and enduring catcalls by Steelers fans who were seated near Cleveland's sideline.
If the game was a boxing match, the game would have been called at halftime. Pittsburgh, which finished 8-8 a year earlier, was eager to show off a new offense that would ultimately be referred to as the "Killer Bs," an ode to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell and receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. The offense came out firing that day, with a 35-yard touchdown catch from Brown and a 38-yard touchdown run by Bell giving Pittsburgh a 24-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
The game's most memorable play was not a score but Brown's 52-yard return that included his head kick of punter Spencer Lanning that helped set up Bell's touchdown.
Ahead 27-3 at halftime, the Steelers appeared to go into cruise control in the second half. The Browns took advantage and opened the second half with a pair of touchdown runs by Isaiah Crowell. Largely dormant in the first half, the Browns' running game -- utilizing Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme -- came to life in the second half. The attack was led by Terrance West, who rumbled for 100 yards on 16 carries while running behind a line that featured 2023 Hall of Fame inductee Joe Thomas.
A field goal to start to the fourth quarter moved the Browns to within a score of the Steelers. They completed the comeback less than four minutes later when Hoyer hit Travis Benjamin for a 9-yard score. It was at this point when the Heinz Field faithful, who were in full celebratory mode in the first half, sat in stunned silence as their team was on the precipice of an epic collapse.
Neither team could score on their next two drives, however, as Pittsburgh's defense came up with several big stops. The Browns also made a questionable decision by electing to punt instead of trying a 52-yard field goal with 4:37 left.
Cleveland's second punt during that sequence gave the Steelers the ball at their own 43 with 47 seconds left. Roethlisberger, as he had already done numerous times in his career, calmly moved the Steelers into field goal range by hitting Markus Wheaton on completions of 11 and 20 yards. Roethlisberger then watched from the sideline as kicker Shaun Suisham drilled his 41-yard attempt as time expired to give the home team a 30-27 win.
The game set the stage for what was a wild season for both teams. The Steelers offense continued to soar, but an average defense and a late-season injury to Bell ultimately led to Pittsburgh losing in the wild card round. The Browns would go on to win seven of their next 10 games that included a 31-10 thumping of visiting Pittsburgh in Week 6.
Cleveland was 7-6 when the team made the surprising decision to bench Hoyer in favor of Manziel entering the team's road game in Cincinnati. Manziel struggled in that game and in subsequent games, and the Browns never won another game that season.
In many ways, the Steelers hosting their first season opener since that game is fitting. While that game was in some ways the official start of a new era of Steelers football, Sunday's game against the 49ers will be the beginning of Kenny Pickett's first full season as Pittsburgh's starting quarterback. If that 2014 game is any indication of what might transpire on Sunday, fans of both the Steelers and 49ers are in for a treat, assuming your heart can handle the suspense.