It was a career day for Solomon Thomas — the first time in his career that he's notched two sacks in one game — and the defensive lineman was all smiles postgame.
"There's nothing like getting a sack," Thomas said. "It's the best thing in the world. No matter how you get it, even if it's a coverage sack or another guy makes him step up, you always celebrate it because they're rare. You've got to count them out."
Thomas played just 49 defensive snaps in two games last season with the 49ers before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. After four years with the team that drafted him, the defensive tackle signed with the Raiders as a free agent this past offseason.
A change of scenery and uniform has proven to be good for the defensive lineman so far, as he's already recorded as many sacks in the Raiders' 26-17 win over the Steelers as he had in his last two seasons in San Francisco. And it means even more to him that the sacks came against a veteran quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger.
"He's always been known as one of the hardest guys to get down. He's big," Thomas said. "He's a Hall of Famer, great quarterback, and it felt good to be able to sack him."
But sacks don't come from working alone. It takes cohesion from the defensive line to apply pressure on the quarterback, keep him in the pocket and aim for attack. The Raiders defensive line did that all day, keeping Roethlisberger to a 67.5 percent completion rate and one passing touchdown. Thomas contributes the chemistry and bonds formed among the team since OTAs as one of the biggest catalysts to the Raiders' success on the field.
"You want to be a tight unit because things can fall apart quickly," he said. "We want to have each other's back, and it's something Coach Gruden preaches all the time. He wants us to be brothers, he wants us to get to know each other. ... It's special to be on a unit that cares for each other, loves each other, protects each other. That's how you create a winning culture, winning unit."
Cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who grabbed the Silver and Black's first interception of the season, echoed Thomas' thoughts that the team, especially the defense, has locked in with a new kind of intensity.
"Its just a different mindset around the whole building. With the defensive guys, you can just feel the different energy," Mullen said.
The undefeated Raiders will look to take that buzzing energy into next Sunday against the Dolphins back at Allegiant Stadium.