Check the ignition system. Turn the gas off, and test your ignition button to see if it creates a spark. If both the pressure regulator on the gas tank and the ignition system are running normally (meaning the pressure regulator is tracking and maintaining correct gas tank pressure, and the ignition system is sparking and lighting correctly), you can finish testing the grill by turning the gas back on and lighting the grill up as you normally would.
Yes, you should touch the steaks to test for doneness, but that doesn't mean that you should be flipping and moving and poking a lot. Steaks should only be flipped once, and only moved once from a higher to a lower heat. And don't poke them with anything but your finger! Put the meat on a hot grill—they should sizzle immediately—and leave them there until they release on their own accord. If you're pulling or struggling with them, they are not seared and not ready to flip.
Who's right? It's not that the notion of burning pepper is complete nonsense—in theory, yes, black pepper could burn. The problem with peppering midway through cooking is that the pepper granules might not stick to the meat. You could pass a pepper grinder at the table, but if you're cooking outside and eating in an informal style, this may not be feasible.
Clean the bottom of the grill with a soapy sponge. Once all the chunks are gone, scrub the bottom with a sponge or scouring pad and soapy water to remove any built up grease or grime. Lots of drippings and food scraps tend to build up under the burners of the grill. Pay close attention to this area and clean it as much as possible to avoid corrosion.