Steve Atwater Denver Broncos & New York Jets
“I’ve always tried to be aggressive. I don’t always make all the tackles or make all the big hits, but I try to play in an aggressive manner.”
The Denver Broncos selected Steve Atwater out of Arkansas in the first round, 20th choice overall, of the 1989 NFL Draft. A hard-hitting and instinctive safety, Atwater played in 167 games during his 11-season career.
He made an immediate impact at free safety in his rookie season. Atwater recorded 129 total tackles (2nd most on the team) to help turn around a Denver defense that ranked 20th in points allowed the previous year to become the NFL’s stingiest unit in 1989 that allowed the fewest points in the league. The Broncos finished that season with the AFC’s best record at 11-5 and a berth in Super Bowl XXIV.
Atwater was voted to the first of eight Pro Bowls following the 1990 season and earned first-team All-Pro recognition for the first of two straight years (1991-92).
In 1997, he was an integral part of the Broncos’ championship season that was capped by the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. Atwater contributed 83 tackles (61 solo), one sack, two interceptions, eight passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries as Denver finished 12-4. His strong play continued throughout the postseason. He added 15 tackles (10 solo), one sack, a forced fumble, and five passes defensed in four playoff games.
Atwater played his final season with the Broncos in 1998 and he helped lead them to a second straight Super Bowl victory. That year he recorded one interception, seven passes defensed, and racked up 55 solo tackles 30 assisted tackles. He had four tackles, three assists and two passes defensed in Super Bowl XXXIII against the Atlanta Falcons.
In all, Atwater, recorded 24 interceptions which he returned for 408 yards and a touchdown, added five sacks, and registered more than 1,000 tackles. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.