The reason for the severe penalty for "no steps" is that "steps into a solo jump" is a required element of the Short Program: -3, -GOE.
In other words, the "no steps" aspect is an automatic -3 penalty, and if the other aspects of the jump are "adequate," then -3 is what you get for the element.
However if other aspects of the jump (like flow out of the landing, for instance) are exceptionally good, then you can earn back one or two of those points. The total GOE on the element must be negative, however.
In general, the CoP does not keep piling on negative GOE for more and more errors on the same element. If you have a bad entrance AND a wrong edge AND a bad air position AND a fall on the landing...that's still just -3 (plus the extra one point penalty for the fall.)
The only error that is piled on top of everything else, and in addition to all the other penalties, is underrotation.