An alternative explanation, and one that fits with the archeological and historical evidence, is the notion that the "staircases" aren't what they appear to be. Rather than providing access to the structure located at the top of the pyramid the steps were actually part of an elaborate theater arrangement in which the steps served as a stage for religious productions in which certain individuals attired in costumes representing various gods would perform for audiences seated below in the plaza. It is certainly no accident that the acoustics in every Maya plaza complex are such that one can stand at the top of the pyramid and carry on a conversation with someone in the plaza below without raising their voice above a conversational level. Think of the plaza/pyramid arrangement as an amphitheater turned on its side. It works.
The pyramids and the associated religious structures were not open to the public, so to speak. The common Maya would no more think of entering a temple than we would take it upon ourselves to go storming into Saint Peter's basilica and climbing up the altar.
The descriptions of the religious ceremonies suggests some real showmanship was involved. At least some of the rituals took place at night. Priests dressed in elaborate costumes with jaguar skins and quetzal features would slowly ascend the "steps" of the theater amid clouds of creamy white smoke generated by the burning of copal incense (the resin of the copal tree, called "pom" in Maya) and the flickering fire light of torches. Using hand-held mirrors made from polished crystals of iron pyrite (fools gold) the priests could reflect the fire light into the smoke while the music from flutes and drums established the desired ambiance. Most modem rock concerts employ the same special effects. By the way, the use of mirrors and smoke to obscure reality is the origin of the term "smoke and mirrors". a tactic most often practiced by lawyers today,